Lawmaker Questions Google's App Store Policies

Rep.-Hank-Johnson-AGoogle's decision to share information about app purchasers with developers is prompting some criticism on Capitol Hill.

In a letter to Google dated Thursday, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) says the company's policies potentially pose a risk to Android users. "Sharing certain personal information like a physical address many harm consumers," Johnson says, adding that developers could use that information to threaten disgruntled consumers.

The lawmaker also says that Google's data-sharing could discourage consumers from giving feedback to developers. "The mere knowledge that criticizing an app is potentially harmful is also a threat to free and unencumbered speech," Johnson writes.

Google Wallet's privacy policy states that the company shares information necessary to process transactions. But many people didn't realize until recently that the company's app platform passes along buyers' information to developers. That model differs from Apple's iTunes, which keeps purchasers' data to itself.



Google's paid-app policy came to light last week, when Australian developer Dan Nolan wrote about the "massive, massive privacy issue" on his blog. "With the information I have available to me through the checkout portal I could track down and harass users who left negative reviews or refunded the app purchase," he said.

In his letter to Google, Johnson says that "over-sharing" of personal information can result in identity theft. "Just as a consumer has notice when an app uses their geolocation, they should also have notice when their address is shared," he writes.

He is asking the company about its decision to run Google Play differently from iTunes. "Unlike some competitors... Google acts as a marketplace for developers to exchange goods and services with consumers," the letter states. He then asks Google how its "open marketplace" benefits consumers, and how consumers' experience with Google Play compares to the experience on other app platforms.

A Google spokesperson said the company will work with Johnson and his staff to answer their questions.



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