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Google restarts updates for some iOS apps after long pause triggered by lack of privacy labels

Google over the weekend began to update many of its flagship iOS apps after a lengthy delay caused by the company’s failure to add Apple’s newly required privacy labels in a timely fashion. Though Google earlier this year said it would “soon” begin to add the labels to its apps as they were updated, it has still yet to do so for a number of key properties — including Search, Photos, Assistant, Maps, Pay, Chrome and others.

Per Apple’s policy, developers cannot issue further updates until privacy labels are applied. That prevented Google from updating many of its top apps for a much longer period of time than usual — especially for a company of its size where minor updates containing bug fixes and performance improvements are issued on a regular basis.

Gmail, for example, hadn’t been updated for three months before the update that rolled out this weekend.

According their iOS App Store listings, Slides, Docs, Sheets and Calendar all received updates this weekend, as well. And over the past couple of weeks, updates for other newly labeled Google apps have also been restarted — including YouTube, YouTube TV, YouTube Music, Google Tasks and Google Podcasts, for example.

We’ve been tracking Google’s app updates here in Google Sheets. (Appfigures confirmed our spreadsheet’s accuracy by running it against its own data.)

This weekend’s set of newly updated apps aren’t the only ones from Google to have received their privacy labels in 2021. Labels can be applied without issuing an app update which makes them harder to spot, sometimes.

Across Google’s full suite of iOS apps, those apps with labels now include:

Google One, Google Podcasts, Google Stadia, Google Fit, Google Fi, Google Tasks, Google Chat, Onduo, Project Baseline, YouTube, YouTube TV, YouTube Music, YouTube Kids, YouTube Studio, Google Meet, Google Smart Lock, Motion Stills, Google Fiber, Google Ads, Wear OS, Google Calendar, Google Classroom, Google Slides, Google Sheets, Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Play Movies, Google Home, Fiber TV, Google Translate and Google Authenticator.

Google has not said why it is taking so long to apply its labels. It initially attributed its delay to add the privacy labels to its annual holiday code freeze — a time of the year when the company pauses updates on its apps while many people take time off.

But as the weeks turned into months, it was clear that Google was taking a much more cautious and methodical approach to applying the labels than other large tech companies. As a result, it’s received increased attention and scrutiny of its app updates.

In fact, every time a new Google app was updated with a label, it made headlines.

Engadget today reported on Gmail and other apps being updated over the weekend, for example.

In mid-January, Google officially responded to the curiosity over its delays with a blog post explaining that its iOS apps would receive privacy labels as it received its next update. But the two have not necessarily gone hand-in-hand. Gmail received its privacy label back on February 22, according to reports, but hadn’t been updated until just now.

And the list of labeled apps is far longer than the list of updated ones.

Google has not responded to a request for comment at this time.

 

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