More ways for users to identify independently security tested apps on Google Play (Google Online Security Blog)

Keeping Google Play safe for users and developers remains a top priority for Google. As users increasingly prioritize their digital privacy and security, we continue to invest in our Data Safety section and transparency labeling efforts to help users make more informed choices about the apps they use.

Research shows that transparent security labeling plays a crucial role in consumer risk perception, building trust, and influencing product purchasing decisions. We believe the same principles apply for labeling and badging in the Google Play store. The transparency of an app’s data security and privacy play a key role in a user’s decision to download, trust, and use an app.

Highlighting Independently Security Tested VPN Apps

Last year, App Defense Alliance (ADA) introduced MASA (Mobile App Security Assessment), which allows developers to have their apps independently validated against a global security standard. This signals to users that an independent third-party has validated that the developers designed their apps to meet these industry mobile security and privacy minimum best practices and the developers are going the extra mile to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities. This, in turn, makes it harder for attackers to reach users’ devices and improves app quality across the ecosystem. Upon completion of the successful validation, Google Play gives developers the option to declare an “Independent security review” badge in its Data Safety section, as shown in the image below. While certification to baseline security standards does not imply that a product is free of vulnerabilities, the badge associated with these validated apps helps users see at-a-glance that a developer has prioritized security and privacy practices and committed to user safety.

To help give users a simplified view of which apps have undergone an independent security validation, we’re introducing a new Google Play store banner for specific app types, starting with VPN apps. We’ve launched this banner beginning with VPN apps due to the sensitive and significant amount of user data these apps handle. When a user searches for VPN apps, they will now see a banner at the top of Google Play that educates them about the “Independent security review” badge in the Data Safety Section. Users also have the ability to “Learn More”, which redirects them to the App Validation Directory, a centralized place to view all VPN apps that have been independently security reviewed. Users can also discover additional technical assessment details in the App Validation Directory, helping them to make more informed decisions about what VPN apps to download, use, and trust with their data.

VPN providers such as NordVPN, Google One, ExpressVPN, and others have already undergone independent security testing and publicly declared the badge showing their good standing with the MASA program. We encourage and anticipate additional VPN app developers to undergo independent security testing, bringing even more transparency to users. If you are a VPN developer and interested in learning more about this feature, please submit this form.

Our Commitment to App Security and Privacy Transparency on Google Play

By encouraging independent security testing and displaying security badges for validated apps, we highlight developers who prioritize user safety and data transparency. We also provide developers with app security and privacy best practices – through Play PolicyBytes videos, webinars, blog posts, the Developer Help Community, and other resources – in accordance with our developer policies that help keep Google Play safe. We are continually working on improvements to our app review process, policies, and programs to keep users safe and to help developers navigate our policies with ease. To learn more about how we give developers the tools to succeed while keeping users safe on Google Play, read the Google Safety Center article.

Our efforts to prioritize security and privacy transparency on Google Play are aligned with the needs and expectations we’ve heard from both users and developers. We believe that by prioritizing initiatives that bolster user safety and trust, we can foster a thriving app ecosystem where users can make more informed app decisions and developers are encouraged to uphold the highest standards of security and privacy.