Google tells developers to stop using X-Mode’s tracking software or face a ban from the Play Store
Google has reportedly told app developers to stop using X-Mode’s tracking software or risk losing access to devices running Android. Apple is said to be enforcing a similar ban.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Google decided to ban X-Mode from collecting location information after the company was revealed to be providing data to U.S. government contractors. Google is giving developers seven days to remove X-Mode or face a ban from the Play Store. Developers can ask for an extension of up to 30 days.
Apple reportedly found 100 apps made by 30 developers that contained X-Mode’s software; it’s unclear what Google uncovered. X-Mode pays app developers to embed code in apps to collect the data. Other companies similar to X-Mode buy this same data directly from app developers, which WSJ said Google has less ability to police.
X-Mode has argued that its contracts with government agencies prevent anyone from linking a device to personal information. Still, the company has come under fire after some of its location information was discovered to be from apps with a predominantly Muslim user base, including a prayer app called Muslim Pro.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), who has been investigating the sale of location data to government entities, said that Americans are sick of learning about apps selling their location information and other sensitive data. Wyden is currently drafting legislation to ban the practice. “Apple and Google deserve credit for doing the right thing and exiling X-Mode Social, the most high-profile tracking company, from their app stores,” Wyden said.
X-Mode has argued that banning its SDK would have broader ecosystem implications. “Apple and Google would be setting the precedent that they can determine private enterprises’ ability to collect and use mobile app data,” X-Mode said.
Users technically opt into such invasive tracking practices, but consumers are becoming more aware of how their data is shared and why. “There’s still far more work to be done to protect Americans’ privacy, including rooting out the many other data brokers that are siphoning data from Americans’ phones,” Wyden said.
Google’s crackdown on X-Mode comes on the heels of the company getting stricter about apps that request background location access.