Google said it will pay security researchers who find “verifiably and unambiguous evidence” of data abuse using its platforms.
It’s part of the company’s efforts to catch those who misuse user data collected through Android apps or Chrome extensions — and to avoid its own version of a scandal like Cambridge Analytica, which saw millions of Facebook profiles scraped and used to identify undecided voters during the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
Google said anyone who identifies “situations where user data is being used or sold unexpectedly, or repurposed in an illegitimate way without user consent” is eligible for its expanded data abuse bug bounty.
“If data abuse is identified related to an app or Chrome extension, that app or extension will accordingly be removed from Google Play or Google Chrome Web Store,” read a blog post. “In the case of an app developer abusing access to Gmail restricted scopes, their API access will be removed.” The company said abuse of its developer APIs would also fall under the scope of the bug bounty.
Google said it isn’t providing a reward table yet but a single report of data misuse could net $50,000 in bounties.
News of the expanded bounty comes in the wake of the DataSpii scandal, which saw browser extensions scrape and share data from millions of users. These Chrome extensions uploaded web addresses and webpage titles of every site a user visited, exposing sensitive data like tax returns, patient data, and travel itineraries.
Google was forced to step in and suspend the offending Chrome extensions.
Instagram recently expanded its own bug bounty to include misused user data following a spate of data incidents,