Android app developer fills privacy policy with Google’s sins, gets approved


Google Play Store requires a privacy policy even for apps that don’t collect any data. Jamie Zawinski, a developer of the XScreenSaver application, didn’t mince words when complying with the guidelines, filling the policy with criticism of Google.

“Unlike Google, XScreenSaver collects no user data,” the privacy policy for the app begins. “Unlike Google, XScreenSaver uses no user data, having collected no user data.”

And it gets much worse, turning into a point-by-point catalog of Google’s various factual or alleged privacy violations and unethical business conduct.

Lambasting Google as “the most rapacious privacy violator on the planet,” the rest of the 70 searing indictments range from user tracking and data mining to partnering “with an authoritarian petrostate,” promoting misinformation, telling users to put glue on pizza, or baking “a user-tracking advertising platform directly into a web browser.”

Many of the items in the listicle contain links to external sources.

Google sins

What adds to the irony is the Google Play Store itself linking to this Privacy policy from the app's Google Play Store page.

“XScreenSaver for Android is... a set of screen savers and live wallpapers. That's it. It draws pretty pictures on your screen. And it's free. That's the whole deal. But in their wisdom, Google – the most rapacious privacy violator on the planet – have decreed that XScreenSaver cannot be made available on their ‘Play’ [sic] store until I publish a ‘Privacy Policy,’” the developer explained the reasoning behind it.

Jamie Werner Zawinski, commonly known as jwz, is an American computer programmer and entrepreneur. He was one of the founders of Netscape and Mozilla.org. An advocate for open-source software, he has often voiced his criticism of various tech industry practices.

The incident attracted the broader attention of developers on lobste.rs and became the most active thread on the platform.

Some users noted that jwz crowdsourced the listicle with a little help from the fediverse. Two days ago, Zawinski posted on Mastodon asking for input of “snarks” with supporting links.

“Great news, everybody! Google has approved the updated XScreenSaver Privacy Policy. I assume that this means that they find it 100% factual and endorse it entirely,” the later jwz’s post reads.

The XScreenSaver app is not very popular, with only 5K+ downloads. However, some users have already been noticing the change.

“This app has, unlike Google, a really good privacy policy that you, unlike Google, will really enjoy reading,” one user said in a review.

On the support page for Android developers, Google explains that its privacy policy requirement helps provide transparency about how the app developer treats sensitive user and device data.

“The privacy policy must, together with any in-app disclosures, comprehensively disclose how your app collects, uses, and shares user data. This includes the types of parties with whom it’s shared,” Google states.


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