Google’s Android Lockbox tracks app data for competitive advantage

It is no hidden fact that Google peeks into the usage stats of how people interact with the OS and apps on their device. Developers know it better than anyone else and now according to the latest report by “The Information”, there’s a fresh insight on the kind of data that is accessed. The internal program at Google dubbed ‘Android Lockbox’ provides access to Google Mobile Services which opens up a lot of sensitive data about the non-Google app usage of users.

This access of information by Google happens when the user grants permission to share the data when Android setup process is initiated. In particular, Google has been found guilty of spying on non-Google apps on Android phones for its own benefit. The data is used for competitive research about the kind of engaging products that the search engine giant is planning to create to kill the competition. Case in point – the Tik Tok app and WhatsApp.

Google says that they indeed have data access and but it is anonymous and users are not in any way identified. They add by saying that the program is open to the developers, who also have similar access. But in reality, the reach is far more as Google can view the data of the preinstalled apps too. On the other hand, developers only have access to the phone’s data that have their apps installed.

In an email to The Verge, Google clarified the situation by saying that API has been used since 2014 by Google and Android developers, authorized by phone makers or the user for general data access. This is used to see how frequently the apps are opened for improving Google services. The spokesman added by saying that the data is only used for battery power allocation to priority apps like Digital Wellbeing or enhance the user experience in Play Store.

It will be interesting to see the developments in this issue as Google didn’t admit about using Lockbox for any illicit activities. Antitrust regulators are going to probe deep about this situation and more is yet to be revealed about Google’s ways of using sensitive user data or how much access there is internally.

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