Google Continues to Drag on iOS App Updates

Posted on February 11, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Google, Mobile, iOS, iPadOS with 21 Comments

With Apple implementing a privacy disclosure for apps in its iOS App Store, Google has dragged its feet coming clean about how much it tracks its users. And it’s starting to cause problems.

In early January, I reported that Google hadn’t updated any of its apps on iOS (and iPadOS) since early December, the day before a new Apple App Store privacy policy went into effect. That policy requires app makers to provide a privacy dashboard in their app listings in the store that details which data each app collects and tracks.

But since then, Google has only updated a handful of apps and only very recently: The Google Fiber, Play Movies & TV, and Translate apps were updated in very late January, and the Google Authenticator and Stadia apps have been updated since then. But major Google apps like Gmail, Drive, Maps, Photos, Search, and YouTube still haven’t been updated since early December.

This week, Google app users on iOS started seeing warning messages related to out-of-date apps when they tried to sign-in to their Google accounts.

“You should update this app,” the message reads. “The version you’re using doesn’t include the latest security features to keep you protected. Only continue if you understand the risks.”

As it turns out, this message was a bug, and Google has since fixed it. But after months of leaving its most popular apps unpatched, one wonders what’s taking so long. Are these apps really such data tracking monsters that Google is worried about disclosing what they really do?

Google’s not talking. All it will say, for now, is that it will add the privacy dashboard to its iOS/iPadOS apps the next time they’re updated. Whenever that will be.

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Comments (21)

21 responses to “Google Continues to Drag on iOS App Updates”

  1. anthonye1778

    They have to realize that all this feet-dragging only makes them look worse.... they realize this, right?

    • jchampeau

      In reply to AnthonyE1778:

      I bet 99% of people who use Gmail. Google Maps, Google Photos, etc., don't realize what's happening, why it's happening, or why they should care. They just want to read their e-mail and be directed to their next meeting.

      • jbinaz

        In reply to jchampeau:

        You're absolutely right - they don't realize what's happening, and they don't care, but they probably should. It's not a big deal, but someday this mass of data can be used against people. All it will take is the wrong people in charge.

        <Removing my paranoia hat now.>

  2. anoldamigauser

    Are these apps really such data tracking monsters that Google is worried about disclosing what they really do?


  3. dftf

    Oh, I've been reminded recently: before we give Apple too-much credit here, cast your mind back about a decade and there were a number of news-articles around whether-or-not T&Cs / User Agreements can be legally-enforced, given how-long some of them are.

    In 2012, Which? reported that Shakespeare's "Macbeth" contains 18,110 words, and the iTunes "User Agreement" at-that-time contained 19,972 words. According to an article from Aug 2017 (the most-recent I can find), it stood then at 20,699 words and was even turned-into a graphic-novel titled "Terms and Conditions" by one R. Sikoryak!

    And which company makes iTunes... oh yeah, Apple. So while these "Privacy Labels" to summarise data-collection are a good idea, perhaps Apple could also do more to shorten their own legal texts?

  4. codymesh

    Google creeps me out. The saddening thing about this is how Google is unlikely to provide any amount of iOS's transparency on Android.

  5. bleduc

    I was deep into Google’s ecosystem but now I am almost out. You Tube is hard to replace but I have started seeing some of the channels I subscribe to simulcast on Odyssey, so...

  6. Saarek

    It's like asking a stalker to come clean to their victims! It's about time these companies are forced to acknowledge, in plain and simple English, just how much data they effectively steal from their users on a daily basis and for the user to then be given an easy option to decline. They also know that no sane person would agree to the invasion of privacy once those terms are explained.

    Yes, I know that their Terms & Conditions will state what they take. But we all know that these companies clothe those terms in deliberately laid out 20 plus pages of legal text that the average person will never read and likely would not fully understand even if they did so. There is no reason for terms and conditions to be so complicated and and elongated apart from the obvious desire to make people not read them.

  7. bmcdonald

    There is no way they will ever admit to how much data mining they are really doing. That's the reason I ditched Chrome on all devices a year ago and never looked back.

    • b6gd

      In reply to BMcDonald:

      Same. I only use YouTube now. If there was a decent alternative I would switch in a second. My final move was to DuckDuck go last year and I am surprised how much I do not miss Google search.

  8. spiderman2

    We'll never know how much apple tracks you "what happens on you iphone stays on your iphone*"

    *till we get caught like it happened with siri and itunes


    and no, I don't use any google service

  9. dftf

    Must be hard for Google when their entire business-model is around targeted-advertising to suddenly have users able to opt-out of this, hence the delay. And admitting just how much they collect!

    Though on a more-interesting development I have read articles that a future version of Android may add similar controls to iOS: if this does go-ahead, I wonder if any built-in apps will be exempt?

  10. dcdevito

    Google just needs to suck it up and come clean with this, it’s only making them look worse.

  11. nbplopes

    I wonder about Gmail. YouTube don’t mind the tracking. Don’t use any other Google app anyway.

    I believe that a lot of practices hidden to users will be revealed. Meaning that we are going to know better what we are giving back to Google in return for the “free” app.

    I believe these companies are doing tracking similar to COVID tracking apps. But instead of COVID they are tracking people to people contacts, relationships.

    It happen to me some times after talking with someone, suddenly the person company or service appearing on my Facebook stream yet we never exchanged handlers.

    • Saarek

      In reply to nbplopes:

      Over the last few years my attitude has really changed to this invasion of privacy. Initially my attitude was along the lines of "well, I have nothing to hide and who cares if Google knows that I have visited Amazon".

      But then it started getting so much more complex, just googling a term would mean me receiving emails (to a non Gmail account), Facebook ads, google ads and more.......

      No, since then I have removed myself from all social networks and gone through the hoops required to get that data properly deleted. I use a VPN, have fake email addresses, ensure I block all trackers and cookies. Make a point of using Safari instead of Chrome, etc.

      I might sound like one of those tin foil hat conspiracy nut jobs, but they have no right to my personal life or data. If any traditional medium or government had attempted the grand scale data theft that these internet companies now use there would have been riots on the streets or law suits and rightly so.

      • b6gd

        In reply to Saarek:

        I was the same way, I had nothing to hide so what did it matter?

        Then things happened that just irked me. One day at lunch I was searching for a 3.5mm Xbox adapter for my son's Sennheiser head set the mic/audio into one for the Xbox. I found it and ordered it.

        I get back to the office and about an hour later both a phone call (let it go to VM) and email from a Sennheiser business account rep, wanting to sell my company headsets for work (phone type).

        So searching from my computer at home for a non-business product resulted in that quick of a turn around. It is just scary.

        After that I started removing Google from my life. Things like the Netflix Social Dilemma movie also helped, as I no longer have a Facebook account and I am social media free.

        Twitter was about to die before Trump, running out of money and no one wanted to touch it when they tried to sell it (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Disney etc) because it was so toxic. Now that he is gone from office and banned from Twitter, I do hope it goes down in flames. It is the sewer of the Internet.

  12. yoshi

    I live pretty deep in the Google ecosystem, like a lot of people I'm sure. But for a while now I've been thinking I should start to move away from their services, just due to privacy alone. It's been hard, because I really enjoy their services. But, this whole iOS situation may be the push I need to finally do it.

    • red.radar

      In reply to yoshi:

      I have been trying to de-google myself for 3 years. The hardest product to leave is email. So much personal information comes to email that your forced to leave the account open just so that one message or account you may have forgot about .... doesn’t come calling. Best I could do was idle the account and check the messages once a week and then log out via the web interface

      its mostly spam and marketing announcements but I hesitate to close it as someone could inadvertently reclaim the account and high jack my identity

    • j5

      In reply to yoshi:

      Privacy was a major reason (along with Apple's excellent ScreenTime features for my family) was why I switched from Samsung phones to iPhone going on 3 years now. Before that, I had been on Android and before Andriod, BlackBerry.

      It's great peace of mind being on an iPhone! I'm not naive about it either but it's MUCH better than being on Android.

    • jbinaz

      In reply to yoshi:

      It's why I switched from Android last year. And at least Apple is finally making products available at a lower price point so it's more accessible to all (but still expensive).