Mozilla: Top Android apps exploit privacy loopholes

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 24, 2023
Updated • Feb 24, 2023
Google Android

Mozilla claims that top Android applications, such as Facebook, Minecraft, TikTok or Twitter exploit privacy loopholes on Google Play. The organization analyzed 40 of the most popular applications on Android in its See No Evil: Loopholes in its Google’s Data Safety Labels Keep Companies in the Clear and Consumers in the Dark study.

Google launched a new data transparency system on Google Play last year, which makes it mandatory for developers and organizations to reveal information about data collecting and sharing, as well as key privacy and security practices. While it is mandatory for developers to fill out the information, the information they provide is not verified by Google.

Mozilla decided to analyze the Data Safety Form of 40 of the Play Store's most popular apps and games to find out if the information that the creators of these apps provide match their privacy policies.

Mozilla's two key questions were:

  • Is Google’s Data Safety Form effective at enhancing privacy transparency among apps in the Google Play Store?
  • How accurately did app publishers in Google’s Play Store fill out Google’s Data Safety Form?

Applications and games analyzed include Twitter, TikTok, Minecraft, Facebook, SnapChat, Gmail, Google Maps, or UC Browser.

According to Mozilla's study, discrepancies between "the apps' privacy policies and the information they reported on Google's Data Safety Form" were found in almost 80% of the analyzed apps.

android play store privacy
source: Mozilla

Mozilla graded apps according to these discrepancies. 16 of the 40 apps received a poor rating, which Mozilla reserved for "major discrepancies". Ana additional 15 apps received the "needs improvement" rating. Only 6 apps received the OK grade. The remaining three apps did not receive a rating, as they had not filled out the Google Data Safety Form.

Twitter, Minecraft, Facebook, SnapChat, and Facebook Messenger are among the apps that received the poor rating. Several Google apps, including Google Chrome, Gmail and YouTube, and apps like Instagram, WhatsApp Messenger and Spotify, received a "needs improvement" rating.

To receive a poor rating, the privacy policy and Data Safety Form information needed to have low similarity and terms used in both reports needed to differ widely "in terms of collected data types, data sharing, and their relevant purposes".

Mozilla identified two main issues with the current system. First, that Google's Data Safety Form includes "complicated terminology and definitions" that allow exploitation of the system, and second, that the information that developers provide is self-reported and not verified by Google.

Google's Data Safety Form has major shortcomings, according to Mozilla. These include potential loopholes, for example, that data sharing with "service providers" does not need to be mentioned, or that "anonymized data" does not need to be disclosed either.

Google dismissed the study, according to a statement published by TechCrunch. The study "conflates company-wide privacy policies that are meant to cover a variety of products and services with individual Data safety labels, which inform users about the data that a specific app collects", said Google.

Mozilla's study is not the only one that raises privacy questions. Earlier this month, a Comparitech study identified privacy issues in children's apps.

Mozilla claims that top Android applications, such as Facebook, Minecraft, TikTok or Twitter exploit privacy loopholes on Google Play. 
Article Name
Mozilla claims that top Android applications, such as Facebook, Minecraft, TikTok or Twitter exploit privacy loopholes on Google Play. 
Mozilla claims that top Android applications, such as Facebook, Minecraft, TikTok or Twitter exploit privacy loopholes on Google Play. 
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  1. Albert said on August 18, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the tip Martin.

    It is for these kinds of posts that I follow GHacks.

    1. Mike Williams said on August 26, 2023 at 8:55 pm

      What’s up with the generic comment, are you a bot?

  2. Tachy said on August 18, 2023 at 3:23 pm


    Where on the planet is that still in use? I was forced to give up using my RAZRV3 years ago because 2G was phased out by AT&T.

    1. arbuz said on August 20, 2023 at 5:02 pm

      Everywhere 3G has been turned off and you don’t have LTE coverage, and believe me there are many developed countries where this is the case and if it weren’t for 2G you wouldn’t even be able to make a phone call.

    2. Doc Fuddled said on August 31, 2023 at 5:55 pm

      Maybe I missed it, but I don’t believe tha term “2G” is in the article. Perhaps you are referring to “AGM G2”??

  3. Tachy said on August 18, 2023 at 3:27 pm


    Your website has gone insane.

    When I the post button I then saw my comment posted on a different article page. When I opened this article again, it is here.

    1. Martin P. said on August 31, 2023 at 4:39 pm

      @Tachy @Martin Brinkmann

      ” Your website has gone insane. ”

      Same here. Has happened several times.

      1. owl said on September 1, 2023 at 3:42 am

        @Martin P.,

        For over two weeks now,
        I’ve been seeing “Comments” posted by subscribers appearing in different, unrelated articles.
        For the time being,
        it would be better to specify the “article name and URL” at the beginning of the post.

  4. Anonymous said on August 18, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    @tachy a lot of non-phone devices with a sim in them rely on 2G, at least here in europe.
    Usually things reporting usage or errors/alarms on something remote that does not get day to day inspection in person. They are out there in vast numbers doing important work. Reliable, good range. The low datarate is no problem at all in those cases.
    3G is gone or on its last legs everywhere, but this stuff still has too much use to cancel.

    Anyhow, interesting that they would put that in. I can see the point if you suspect a hostile 2G environment (amateur eavesdroppers with laptop, ranging up to professional grade MITM fake towers while “strangely” not getting the stronger crypto voip 4G because it is being jammed, and back down to something as old ‘stingray’ devices fallen into the wrong hands).

    But does this also mean that they have handled and rolled out a fix for that nasty 4G ‘pwn by broadcast’ problem you reported earlier this year? I had 4G disabled due to that, on the off chance that some of the local criminals would buy some cheap chinese gear, download a working exploit and probe every phone in range all over town in the hope of getting into phones of the police.

  5. Andy Prough said on August 19, 2023 at 3:04 am

    >”While most may never be attacked in stingrays, it is still recommended to disable 2G cellular connections, especially since it does not have any downsides.”

    The downside would be losing connectivity. I spend a lot of time way out in the countryside where there’s often no service or almost none. My network allows 2G, and I need it sometimes. I have an option on the phone to disable 2G, I may do that when I’m in the city and I have good 5G connectivity, but not out in the country.

    I would imagine that the stingray exploits, like most of the bad things in this world, are probably things you will run into in the crowded big cities.

  6. owl said on August 21, 2023 at 3:40 am

    I stopped using it in a mobile (Wi-Fi line) environment, so I’m almost ignorant of the actual situation,
    But the recent reality in Japan makes me realize that “the infrastructure of the web is nothing more than a papier-mâché fiction”.

    It is already beyond the scope of what an individual can do.
    What we should be aware of is the reality that “governments and those in power want to control the world through the Web”, and efforts to counter (resist and prevent) such ambitions are necessary.

  7. Anonymous said on August 26, 2023 at 9:27 pm

    Why do you want people to disable the privacy features? Hmmmmm?

  8. Anonymous said on August 27, 2023 at 2:30 am

    Now You: do you plan to keep the Ads privacy features enabled?

    I’d like to tell you, but apparently if you make a post critical of Google, you get censored. * [Editor: removed, just try to bring your opinion across without attacking anyone]

  9. Tachy said on August 27, 2023 at 5:15 am


    You website is still psychotic. Comments attach to random stories.

  10. John G. said on August 28, 2023 at 2:46 pm

    @Martin please do fix the comments, it’s completely insane commenting here! :[

  11. ECJ said on August 28, 2023 at 5:37 pm


    The comments are seriously messed up on gHacks now. These comments are mixed with the article at the below URL.

    And comments on other articles are from as far back as 2010.

  12. Naimless said on August 29, 2023 at 12:57 am

    What does this article has anything to do with all the comments on this article? LOL I think this Websuite is ran by ChatGPT. every article is messed up. Some older comments from 2015 shown up in recant articles, LOL

  13. Paul Knight said on August 31, 2023 at 3:35 am

    The picture captioned “Clearing the Android Auto’s cache might resolve the issue” is from Apple Carplay ;)

  14. Anonymous said on August 31, 2023 at 9:57 pm

    How about other things that matter:
    Drop survival?
    Screen toughness?
    Degree of water and dust protection?

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