Google reportedly used data from rival Android apps to build its own competitors

Google Play Store Moto Hero
Google Play Store Moto Hero (Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google reportedly collects and uses data from rival apps to build its own competing apps and services.
  • The company was accused of using TikTok's data when creating YouTube Shorts, a short-form video service.
  • Amazon faced an EU investigation for similar behavior.

Google has been accused of using data from apps installed on Google Play equipped phones to build its own competing services. According to a report by The Information (via MSPoweruser), this is a private Google project where all the data is stored in an "Android Lockbox."

Google reportedly used this data to build a TikTok rival in YouTube Shorts. It has also analyzed data from email apps and social media apps like Facebook and Instagram. Such a move could be seen as anti-competitive, especially as the DOJ gears up to file antitrust charges against Google.

When investigating Amazon for the same behavior, the EU's Commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said:

European consumers are increasingly shopping online. E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don't eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior. I have therefore decided to take a very close look at Amazon's business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules.

Swap out a few words here, and it's not hard to see where a new EU antitrust investigation could spring from. Google for its part says that it does collect app user data, but that data is something that individual developers do have access to. Of course, Google has a much wider range of data points, and isn't limited to looking at just data from one app but can see a whole lot of them to gain a fuller picture of user patterns.

It's also worth noting that Google offers a lot of apps that compete with everyone. YouTube competes with Spotify and Netflix. Google Keep and Tasks compete with the myriad number of Android notes app. Messages does so with both SMS apps and regular messaging apps. Google could conceivably use data for all these rivals to build its own apps up. If it did so with YoouTube Shorts, then it could do so with any of its other apps. For its part, Googe didn't confirm or deny whether it had used the data in this way.

Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg expected to testify before House antitrust committee

Michael Allison