Google announces new Play Store policies to curb misinformation, tighten security

Google’s Play Store has for the large part done a good job in keeping compromised and generally unsafe apps out of reach of normal users. However, there are still apps riddled with ads and other unwanted programs like trojans that slip through the cracks, infecting millions of users where the end goal is normally to siphon their hard-earned cash or blast them with ads at every available opportunity.

To continue fighting this battle, Google has come up with new policies, which will be enacted over the coming months. The policies in question range from minor to quite significant, with some of them only being targeted at developers, however, quite a few of them like subscription cancellations will affect the end users directly.

If you happen to have an app on the Play Store that is in violation of the new rules, Google has provided a 30-day grace period starting 27th July 2022 to give you time to comply with the new regulations. Special permission in regard to extending the deadline will be provided on a case-by-case basis.

Google Play Store new policies

Among the numerous policies that have been updated, the following are the most significant.

For an app that uses the USE_EXACT_ALARM permission to be distributed on the Play Store, it must either be an alarm app, a clock app or an app that is a calendar app that shows notifications for upcoming events.

To limit the spread of health misinformation and prevent impersonation, Google has taken a closer look at those apps that advocate for unapproved treatments as well as those making unfounded claims against vaccines.

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For impersonation, Google targets the following group;

  • Apps whose icons and titles are falsely implying a relationship with another company/developer/entity/organization.
  • App titles and icons that are so similar to those of existing products or services that users may be misled.
  • Apps that falsely claim to be the official app of an established entity.
  • Developers that falsely imply a relationship to another company/developer/entity/organization.

Apps that have excessive ads have also been targeted, specifically interstitial ads. Google is not removing them altogether, but rather limiting them to make the user experience better. For starters;

  • Full-screen interstitial ads of all formats that show unexpectedly, typically when the user has chosen to do something else, are not allowed.
  • Ads that appear during gameplay at the beginning of a level or during the beginning of a content segment are not allowed.
  • Full-screen video interstitial ads that appear before an app’s loading screen are not allowed.
  • Full-screen interstitial ads of all formats that are not closeable after 15 seconds are not allowed

Developers have also been directed to make the cancellation of subscriptions as easy as possible. The unsubscribe option must now be visible in the app’s account settings by including;

  • A link to Google Play’s Subscription Center (for apps that use Google Play’s billing system); and/or
  • direct access to your cancellation process.

A few of the changes mentioned above are not yet live and might take a while to be implemented. However, once implemented, trying to navigate an app filled with interstitial ads with every page you load will hopefully be a thing of the past.

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As always with these changes, there is the possibility that a number of genuinely useful apps will be caught in the crossfire of Google’s new policies rendering them useless, or with only a fraction of their initial functionalities.

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Naftaly is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for tech, video games and pop culture. When he is not writing articles for AndroidKenya, he is probably rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the hundredth time. Email at criskariuki@gmail.com Twitter @KarisNaftaly

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