Google Play Developer Program Policies get updated, user experience and security take focus

by: Jonathan FeistMarch 29, 2014


Google is pushing out an update to the Play Developer Program Policies in an effort to protect users and help shape the user experience. The update contains some new policies and some updated wording that addresses annoying trends we have seen in apps and helps maintain a positive, and family friendly, experience for users of the Play Store. Here are the main changes, via the folks at Android Police.

Updating the Sexually Explicit Materials section, “apps that contain or promote pornography are prohibited; this includes sexually explicit or erotic content, icons, titles or descriptions.” The real change here is the addition of “erotic content,” which may not result in any changes to currently available apps, but it certainly gives Google a little more wiggle room to take down apps with ‘sexy girl wallpapers’ and the like.

In the Dangerous Products section, Google has added that linking to viruses, worms etc is now against the rules. Previously, developers were simply not allowed to transmit viruses etc. This certainly feels like a simple clarification of the policy, but interesting enough, it relates to the Android 4.1 and under webview bug that allows apps to link to viruses, learn about that here.

The System Interference section is also a small, but important change. “Apps and their ads must not modify or add browser settings or bookmarks, add homescreen shortcuts, or icons on the user’s device as a service to third parties or for advertising purposes.” Disallowing the modification of browser settings and bookmarks will help prevent users from experiencing the same sort of issues that have been common on PC browsers for years. This section goes on to explain that users must be able to easily identify and revert back any changes to the system that an app makes, and app un-installation should also revert the changes.

An entirely new section called App Promotion has been added. This section pertains to external advertising, as much as anything. Developers are not allowed to use deceptive ads on websites or other unsavoury methods of advertising, or attempt to force install their app through the store. Let’s look at the full section:

Apps published on Google Play may not directly or indirectly engage in or benefit from the following behavior:

  • Promotion via deceptive ads on websites, apps or other properties, including simulated system, service, or app notifications or alerts.
  • Promotion or install tactics which cause redirection to Google Play or the download of the app without informed user action.
  • Unsolicited promotion via SMS services.

It is your responsibility to ensure that no ad network or affiliate uses such methods to direct users to pages that make your app available for download.

Google is taking further steps to help users understand in-app payments with the Paid and Free Apps section. “If your product description on Google Play refers to in-app features to which a specific or additional charge applies, your description must clearly notify users that payment is required to access those features.” It used to be a common courtesy for developers to explain to users what features are free, and what ‘premium’ features are unlocked by an in-app upgrade – a full description is now mandatory. Of course, this covers all in-app payments, such as in-game upgrades, not just premium feature packages.

Last, but not least on our list, the Ads Context section is appended with, “It must be clear to the user which app each ad is associated with or implemented in.” This is added to the statement that ads may not simulate or impersonate the user interface, in an effort to further protect the user from malicious advertising.

All in all, these updates should serve the users well. Feel free to check out the full Google Play Developer Program Policies for more information. The changes go into effect for a developer’s next app update, or within 15 days of the notification email that was sent out yesterday, whichever happens first.

Do you think these changes are enough to protect users from malicious apps in the Play Store? Developers, do these new policies negatively affect you?

  • MasterMuffin

    I hate the ads that start downloading Mobogenie market without your permission. Aaand “your Android has been infected” ads, those should be illegal

    • Vardan Nazaretyan

      Or “Your PC is infected” ads on an Android phone, you know, the ones that look like open windows from Windows XP. People who klick that are insanely stupid. :D

    • Android Developer

      There is also “your android is slow”, or something like that.
      my SGS3 isn’t that slow. :(

    • wezi427

      Android infected ones are the worse.

  • GunbleR

    RIP mobogenie! Finally :-)

  • Michael Samsara

    There is always a fine line to be walked; when balancing the
    rights of people to make decisions freely and in the course of doing so
    demonstrate their intelligence, maturity, responsibility as well as creativity

    – without imposing, from without, laws restrictions, policies and threats that promise retribution most unpleasant if you do what you already know you shouldn’t do – which we know you are probably inclined to do – but are really, really hoping you won’t do because – it’s not nice.

    Apparently, after testing, the former egalitarian, enlightened approach and paradigm didn’t work quite as well as hoped – so the other shoe is dropping.

    Now, I know, those who dislike all things Android – will probably say, “No, that isn’t what Google was doing – they just didn’t/don’t/never will have their act together as well as the high priests of those of us who worship at the temple of the all knowing to be found in Cupertino.”

    Perhaps, but, perhaps not; my feeling is “by their fruits ye shall know them” – is one of those great phrases that will never go out of style and if you look at the differing approaches involved – from actions taken in the past as relates to overall philosophy and actions – I think what you will find – at least what I perceive – is that even if they may be less than always perfect, Google does tend to fall on the side of trying to encourage openness and creativity and freedom, whilst some – well, let’s just say, don’t quite as much.

    I think these changes are for the better and that coupled with a little common sense and appreciation of security issues on the part of visitors – will help make Google Play more secure for all who use it. Of course, you know what Will Rodgers said about commonsense don’t you?

    “There is never a shortage of commonsense, because people so seldom use it.”

    • Simple

      Get a shave and a haircut dude.

      • Michael Samsara

        will you supply the two bits? lol

        Somehow I fail to see the relevance of your comment to the topic at hand – Mr. Simple – minded? I think highly of you too.

  • Alistair

    As a Google Play user it’s nice to see these changes. As a developer, it’s also nice, because I can’t stand aggressive ads!

  • Milton

    Android and security just can not go in the same sentence

    • Gruyere

      But Windows AND Holes do! ;-)

      • Milton

        Yea sure…

  • here is an eye opener on what precisely Google is fighting and what it means for mobile ads and new ad formats