Most of us grudgingly accept that ceding some personal information is a fact of life in online transactions. However, if you’re a developer offering apps for sale through the Google Play app store, you might be surprised to discover — as an Australian developer did — that as a merchant, you receive name, email, and certain location information for each customer who bought your app on Google Play.

Dan Nolan, a developer from Sydney, Australia, found this out when he recently logged on to his Google Play merchant account. Nolan was surprised to see listed the email address, suburb (zip code), and many of the full names of people who bought his Android app on Google Play.

Google’s policy raises a twofold privacy concern. First, it poses the question of whether or not a developer who sells his or her app through an app store ought to have access to customer information. Google’s formidable lists of privacy policies and Google Play Terms of Service don’t state explicitly that Google passes along information related to Google Play purchases to the developers who sell their apps on Google Play. Buyers familiar with the Apple app stores or Windows Store, where Apple or Microsoft block app sellers’ access to buyer’s personal information, might well assume — incorrectly — that Google does likewise.

Nolan also raises concerns that providing developers with buyer information could lead to a developer harassing a buyer who was dissatisfied with the app, or more direly, malware could compromise a developer’s Google Play account and access the information in it.

Whether or not Google chooses to amend its policy, both Google Play app buyers and sellers should be aware of what happens with customers’ personal information. At minimum, Google should clear up the ambiguity in its current policies regarding sharing of personal information so that Google Play app buyers and developers know which information of theirs is shared and with whom.

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