Dan Nolan, an app developer, is concerned that Google Play giving email addresses of app purchasers to developers is a privacy blunder. As an app developer myself, I could not disagree more!
How Developers Sell In Google Play Vs. iTunes
The way the Google Play market works and has worked since it launched on October 23, 2008 is as follows. A developer who charges for their apps has to set up a Google Wallet account. The Google Wallet account makes the developer the merchant on record in the Google Play store.
When someone buys your app from the Google Play store, that transaction, along with the customer’s information is sent to the Google Wallet console of the developer.
Apple’s iTunes Store works completely differently. The merchant on record for iOS apps is not the developer, it is Apple. App developers within the Apple App Store never see their customer data, they never charge customer credit cards, and they are not able to refund customers who are unhappy with their apps.
The Refund Issue: Easy With Google, Hard With Apple
With Google Play, if a customer has an issue with the app and is demanding a refund, the developer can login to Google Wallet and click “refund.” Google Play allows developers to refund customers within Google Wallet.
With Apple, you have to tell the disgruntled customer to call Apple’s 800 number, which in turn makes the customer even more upset. But technically, in iTunes Connect, there is no way for an Apple Developer to refund a customer.
Yes, the data of the customer is passed to the developer within Google Play. But as a developer, that helps the developer better service their customers by giving refunds, handling payment issues and knowing how to follow up with customers who have issues. With Apple, developers are in a black hole.
In this case, it seems to me this developer was only on the Apple App Store and recently started distributing and selling apps on Google Play. He was not accustomed to how Google Play works and thinks it is a bug. It is not a bug, it is how Google Play has worked for four years.
Google’s Terms Of Service Protects The Customer:
In addition, Google Play developers have to comply with the developer terms:
4.3 You agree that if you use the Market to distribute Products, you will protect the privacy and legal rights of users. If the users provide you with, or your Product accesses or uses, user names, passwords, or other login information or personal information, you must make the users aware that the information will be available to your Product, and you must provide legally adequate privacy notice and protection for those users. Further, your Product may only use that information for the limited purposes for which the user has given you permission to do so.
If your Product stores personal or sensitive information provided by users, it must do so securely and only for as long as it is needed. But if the user has opted into a separate agreement with you that allows you or your Product to store or use personal or sensitive information directly related to your Product (not including other products or applications) then the terms of that separate agreement will govern your use of such information.
If the user provides your Product with Google Account information, your Product may only use that information to access the user’s Google Account when, and for the limited purposes for which, the user has given you permission to do so.
And Google Play customers are notified in the Play Terms that their information is being accessed and must be treated in accordance with Google’s privacy policies:
Information about You. In order to access certain services in Google Play, you may be required to provide information about yourself such as your name, address, and billing details. Google’s privacy policies explain how we treat your personal data and protect your privacy when using Google Play. You agree that any such information you provide to Google will always be accurate, correct and up to date.
Of course, not everyone may agree this is clear enough, and our other article explains more about this: Google Play Gives Email Addresses To Developers, Raises Privacy Issues
A Developer’s Viewpoint
I want to be able to service my customers, and yes, they are my customers, not Google’s and not Apple’s customers. They download our products. They call the developer with questions. We provide them the tools and the content. They are our customers.
Apple doesn’t tell us who our customers are, and when we need that information to verify ownership or to give refunds, we are left with blindfolds on.
Google, in my opinion, does it right by making the user who downloads the app our customer. We can better service them by being able to refund them, look up order status issues, and potentially contact them with issues they may have.
As many of you know, I am a huge Apple fan. But here, in this case, I think Google does this right and Apple gets it wrong.