While Google is under strict antitrust control, reports have surfaced that the company may be collecting data from competitors to develop its own apps. In particular, Google monitors the way its users interact with competing applications to improve its products. Concerning the Android, its success is connected not only with the range of options hardware but also with the huge number of apps that have been developed for it, including those created by Google, which is the developer behind the popular mobile operating system.
The company has access in general usage information from Android devices, which he uses to determine the development of various functions and to measure the impact that the respective changes will have on the overall user experience. However, a new report from "The Information" reveals that Google may arbitrarily collect even more data, through an internal program, and not necessarily to use it properly and for a "good purpose".
The program, named Android Lockbox, allows the company to access data on how Android users interact with popular applications - competitors of Google, such as TikTok, Facebook and Instagram. For example, the company sees how many times users open a particular application each day, as well as the average time they spend using it.
According to the report, there is a special group named "Magic Eye", which analyzes the data and uses it to inform executives about third-party engagement services, or to develop competitive services under the Google umbrella. Sources also told The Information that this data has been used to track competitors to Google services such as YouTube and gmail, as well as for fast - growing mobile apps like TikTok.
YouTube recently released a test feature in India under the name "Shorts", which is designed to keep people away from TikTok. So when YouTube planned to launch TikTok's competitor in India, Google officials looked at how people in the country were using TikTok and its competitors on Android devices. Google says it is known to have access to application usage data developed by its competitors, explaining that it does so to improve battery life, to coordinate its search algorithm. Play Store and activate its capabilities Digital Wellbeing on Android.
In addition, a Google spokesman said that since 2014, the Android app usage data API has been used by Google and Android developers authorized by OEMs or users to access basic app usage data - such as how often apps open - for analysis and improvement of services. He added that the API does not receive information about activity within the application and that the collection of this data is controlled by users.
The report came to light at a time when Google CEO Sundar Pichai, along with its CEOs AppleOf Facebook and Amazon, are expected to testify before the US Congress on the issue of competition in the technology market. Both the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and 50 other prosecutors have launched antitrust investigations into Google's business practices, from acquisitions such as DoubleClick, Android, AdMob and YouTube to how the algorithm search engine encounters competing applications and services.
Google is not the only company accused of such data collection practices. In 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook was using a VPN service called Onavo to monitor competing services.