Google is keeping tabs on user activity on rival Android apps, reported The Information.
According to the report, the search engine giant is using an internal program known as "Android Lockbox" to access data on how Android users interact with popular, non-Google apps such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
The covert program, which reportedly works via Google Mobile Services, allows Google's employees to see how often users engage with a particular app and how long do they use them.
The report says that Google’s employees have to request permission to see this data in some cases and that these requests are sometimes denied. "Android Lockbox" works after Google users agree to share information as part of the Android setup process.
Users are told that this data allows Google to offer a more personalised experience. The company has previously admitted that it has access to usage data from rival apps.
The news comes in the backdrop of intense scrutiny the California-based company has faced recently in the US for antitrust. CEO Sundar Pichai is due to testify in Congress later next week. Although, the probe is believed will focus on the company's search and ad businesses. Platforms such as Yelp have accused Google to favor its own products in search results.