Google has published an announcement inside its developer portal informing all app developers that as of September 30th it will be mandatory for them to supply a physical address, and that this address will be visible to every Google Play Store user. In other words Google is forcing independent developers to publish their home addresses on the Play Store.
The privacy issues around this are enormous. It is understandable that big game studios who have dozens of employees and a nice suite of offices won’t have an issue with publishing their address. They are probably a Incorporated company of some kind and they have a register business address. But what about independent developers? They have neither a office or an official business address, all they have is their home address.
According to Google it will be mandatory to provide a physical address. Developers who don’t provide a physical address could have their apps removed from the Play Store. This is true draconian, almost communistic thinking by Google. As an indie app developer I have no problem with Google having my address. It has my banking information (to send me payments) and knowing my address isn’t an issue, in fact it makes good sense to verify the author of an app. But the moment that information gets published on the Play Store for every Tom, Dick, Harry and would-be stalker to find then that is a different matter.
I can sell items on eBay without eBay needing to publish my physical address on its site. How is it that Google needs to trample all over the privacy rights of indie developers?
Also notice that Google is expressly asking for a physical address. It isn’t asking for a postal address. At least with a postal address indie app developers can protect the sanctuary of their homes by renting a postal box or by using some kind of forwarding service. But Google want to publish your physical address, your actual real address, your home, your house, for everyone to see.
The exact wording of Google’s announcement is as follows:
Google is justifying its request by saying that the physical address is needed to “comply with with consumer protection laws.” I am no expert, but I can sell items on eBay without eBay needing to publish my physical address on its site. How is it that Google, which is selling digital goods and not physical ones, needs to trample all over the privacy rights of indie developers?
At the moment there seems to be little that developers can do. Personally I have contacted Google, as an indie developer, and reported my outrage at its request. If Google force this through I will likely remove my apps from the Play Store. The only tiny, sliver of light in this terrible situation is that the need for a physical address only applies to paid apps or apps with in-app purchases. One way out for me, and for other indie developers, is to move all my apps over to being advertising supported.
What do you think? Has Google gone mad?