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?