Google Play

Google has sent out an e-mail about updates to their Google Play developer policies, and it's clear that they are trying to reign in some questionable behavior that goes on in our beloved app store. There's some standard stuff to go along with new features, like guidelines and cancelation policies for the new subscription billing service, but the bulk of the new changes are user facing and designed to make our experience better all around. Here's a quick bullet point of the major changes:

  • Restricting the use of names or icons confusingly similar to existing system apps in order to reduce user confusion
  • Providing more detail on the kinds of dangerous products that are not allowed on Google Play. For example, apps that disclose personal information without authorization are not allowed.
  • Giving more examples of practices that violate the spam policy.
  • Adding a new section that addresses ad behavior in apps. 

The first couple of points are easy enough to understand, and Google is stepping in to keep folks from being tricked by unscrupulous developers. With over 600,000 applications in Google Play, there are bound to be a few who just want your eyeballs on ads and will do anything to make that happen. A lot of these apps also will try to work around the rules and just want your address book or web history. It stinks, but just like the rest of the world some folks take the low road to make a buck. With these new policies in place, Google can show them the door if they get crafty and don't play fair.

The third point is downright awesome. Have a look at the complete policy here, and see how Google makes it plain about what is and isn't allowed in their store, and just what they consider as spam. This is how we like to see things explained -- in clear, concise language with no weaseling around. In their house, you play by their rules, and now you know them.

Finally, they are getting a grip on ad SDKs and networks that practice in shady behavior. With words like deceiving consumers and disruptive behavior, Google has lain the smack down and let these companies -- and the developers who use them -- know that the days of the wild west are numbered. A clear set of rules on how ads can behave has been a long time coming.

Google is still wide open. With the tick of a checkbox users are free to install any application they please, and we wouldn't want it any other way. We also want a consistent, and dare we say better, experience from Google's own store. We're tired of fake Temple Run games and apps that seem to exist only to harvest marketing data. As savvy users we tend to quickly ferret out these kind of apps and give them the boot, but now it looks like Google is prepared to step in and help those who may not be Android enthusiasts. With the apparent push of the Google Play brand, we say the timing is perfect.

Check out the full text of the e-mail after the break.

Hello Google Play Developer,

We are constantly striving to make Google Play a great community for developers and consumers. This requires us to update our policies when we launch new features, like subscription billing, and also when we see unhealthy behavior, like deceptive app names and spammy notifications. This email is to notify you that we’ve made some changes to our policies which are highlighted below.

- We’ve added clearer details to the payment policy, and guidelines on how we will handle cancellations in our new subscription billing feature

- We are restricting the use of names or icons confusingly similar to existing system apps in order to reduce user confusion

- We are providing more detail on the kinds of dangerous products that are not allowed on Google Play. For example, apps that disclose personal information without authorization are not allowed.

- We are giving more examples of practices that violate the spam policy.

Additionally, we are adding a new section that addresses ad behavior in apps. First, we make it clear that ads in your app must follow the same rules as the app itself. Also, it is important to us that ads don’t negatively affect the experience by deceiving consumers or using disruptive behavior such as obstructing access to apps and interfering with other ads.

Please take a look at the Google Play Developer Program Policy at http://play.google.com/about/developer-content-policy.html to see all the changes and make sure your app complies with our updated policies.

Any new apps or app updates published after this notification will be immediately subject to the latest version of the Program Policy.  If you find any existing apps in your catalog that don’t comply, we ask you to fix and republish the application within 30 calendar days of receiving this email.  After this period, existing applications discovered to be in violation may be subject to warning or removal from Google Play.

Regards,
Google Play Team

 

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

 

Reader comments

Google Play developer policies have been updated, we like where this is heading

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What fantastic news, soon the day will come when I dont have to monitor what my mother (an OAP) and my young children are installing. This has been a long time coming, but a welcome one none the less.
Now all they need to do from a consumer & developer perspective is re instate the purchased app list as I for one spend more time hunting for apps I have previously purchased compared to new ones.

You can always check the "Other apps in my library" section at My Android Apps on Google Play for apps that you had purchased but aren't currently installed on a particular device.

Got to "My Apps" in Google Play on your phone and then swipe "right to left" to get a list of all the apps you have ever installed.

I wish they make all devs list why the application need each permission and how it's used. Some do list why they need each permission requested and what they are doing with it. I wish that was mandatory.

I fully agree, nothing more frustrating than something you purchased suddenly needing some crazy permission like SMS access.

I can see how this might annoy some developers when they have to list the obvious.... like a game which has a required 300MB download in order to run having the SD card access permission. But id rather have this then developers adding permissions all over the place with no explination why.

Of course, there needs to be a way to report a permission you think they are lying about too. Many of these less than savory types would flat out lie on why they require certain permissions.

I wish they would make app providers bundle their work...E.G. looking for a keyboard you have to run through a million different GO apps. It should be Go keyboard and under that all their additional stuff.....GO is just an example, there are tons of developers that do the same thing

As long as they always allow side loading of apps, I would not mind at all if google locked down the market more. In fact, with the exception of forbidding certain types of applications, I would like google to take a page from apple in there policies. There is nothing wrong force people to make better apps before being allowed in the play store. Google's review process seems a little lax. Mainly because I don't think there is one right now.

Don't worry with all the lazy motards out there who don't read permissions or the description of the app, this is probably whats going to happen.

First dev's will only be allowed AdMob ads.
Then dev's wont be able to create anything that mimics the existing system apps.
Then a complete walled garden where if Google doesn't like it, it doesn't get added.

Don't get me wrong I'm all for cleaning up the "Play Store" but telling people they cant use certain ad networks is the wrong way to do it.

does this mean that AIRPUSH notification bar spam ads are toast?

not that i ever install or keep any app that does this - but it'd be nice to not have to every worry about it.

On Jelly Bean the airpush notifications are already toast.You can disable them.

As far as ICS I think that any apps that already have airpush intrusive ads will have to remove them.Or when they update their app will have to remove them .I am not sure if this applies to every airpush ad but certainly hope it does.

So in a few weeks I can install Glu Mobile games without getting spammed every minute with notification ads? Cool :).

The trend of all but necessary in-app purchases for many games instead of selling the full games for an up-front charge, is annoying enough, but notification ads should be a criminal offense. Sounds like now they finally will be.

I'm still half convinced that Android was a scheme of world domination launched by Steve Jobs. Why else have an app store that is the exact opposite of Apple's when what we want is a reviewed app store, with the ability to side load apps.

And not getting a license for Java also adds to the appearance of a conspiracy. Why do think Schmidt was really running Google and still on the Apple board? Because he was Steve's minion. Make a mobile OS that beats all the other OSes, except iOS, but that is built on a foundation of lies and untruths, when it gets toppled, only iOS remains.

I straight up wish Google would drop the "open" crap and curate apps. Android is open by default anyway since you can sideload apps. The average consumer, however, should be able to use the native appstore without fear and the need for anti-virus/security software.

I am glad this only applies to Google Play apps. The very fact that users are prevented from installing apps on non-jailbroken iPhones without going through the app store is the reason why I did not buy an iPhone.

Since the 1980s at least the model has always been that anyone can develop and distribute open-source software - even on semi-closed platforms like desktop Windows and Mac OS - and some smartphone environments are taking the extraordinarily closed, illiberal, non-free attitude that developers are not allowed to distribute their apps how they like. This could result in a lot of wasted development time knowing that the OS developer could "vet" your app and prevent its distribution. I very much hope Google will never, ever take this stance - if it did I would look elsewhere for my next phone. Thankfully the fact that the OS (most versions) is open source would allow for a fork if that happened.

And I don't agree with the "protect users from viruses" argument: there is always a risk in choosing to install apps and it's up to users whether to take that risk. This would be rather like banning people climbing mountains because they might fall off and/or run into bad weather.

Oh great, now they are becoming as retarded as Apple, forbidding anything sexual. Why the hell do they have a maturity rating if they are just going to ban things outright anyway.
Freaks.

Also "Depictions of gratuitous violence are not allowed." So most of the games are not allowed? In many of them you shoot people in the head.
You may say 'thats not what they mean' - but that is just you making that viewpoint up, because they clearly write its not allowed.

Also, "We don’t allow content or services that facilitate online gambling" essentially means all browsers (and google, its legal in many place)

In fact most of these censorship rules are beyond the pale.