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Google Play Policy Update

Google_Play_Store_96I know it’s Friday night but after I saw my email and a post from Phandroid on twitter and I thought I should make a quick post on the blog so that all Andromo developers know about the Google Play™ Developer Program Policy Update

The email that I got and that you should have received says the following:

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 in accordance with current practices as the ecosystem evolves. This email is to notify you that we’ve made some changes to our policies which are highlighted below.

  1. We’ve updated our content policies to further clarify our stance on sexually explicit material and provide a better experience for our users, including minors
  2. We’re introducing the App Promotion policy, which provides guidance on what app promotion tactics are disallowed when promoting your app on Play
  3. We’ve introduced a provision that requires you to clearly disclose when an advertised feature in your app’s description requires in-app payment
  4. We’ve clarified the System Interference policy to prohibit any browser modifications on behalf of third-parties or advertisements
  5. We’ve re-emphasized in the Ads Policy that all advertising behavior must be properly attributed to, or clearly presented in context with the app it came along with
  6. We’ve also updated the Spyware section of our Policy Guidelines Help Siteto address surveillance or tracking apps. Please take a look at the Google Play Developer Program Policy 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 unpublish the app, or fix and republish the app within 15 calendar days of receiving this email. After this period, existing apps discovered to be in violation may be subject to warning or removal from Google Play.

Regards,
Google Play Team

It is important to pay attention to the changes as well as the paragraph at the bottom (emphasis mine):

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 unpublish the app, or fix and republish the app within 15 calendar days of receiving this email. After this period, existing apps discovered to be in violation may be subject to warning or removal from Google Play.

So if any of those items are of a concern to you it’s time to update your apps. Be sure to read the full policy document for all of the changes.

Google Play is a trademark of Google Inc.

From the Andromo Blog: Google Play Policy Update

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Comments

  • I don't understand this part very well:

    ************************
    App Promotion


    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.

    ******************

    I had a website which had a "surprise me" style button on it, and when the user clicked it, he was re-directed to a random app of mine on Google Play store. So the new GP policy prohibits this? I was just about to re-enable that site.

    Please share your thoughts. Thanks.


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  • edited March 2014
    Excellent question!!!
    Also, can I still promote a paid version within the free version with a simple text like "PRO Version" (and link to GP page of this pro version)? Or do I need to change the text to something like "PRO Version - click here to download on Google Play"?

    Same for cross promoting apps with a simple text like "ebook xyz" or do I need to change the tab's text to "ebook xyz - click here to download on Google Play"?

    Good grief, I wish they would make their T&C more understandable.
    E.g. explain what excactly is considered an "informed user action"?

  • And here is another point, that just caught my attention.

    Impersonation or Deceptive Behavior: Don't pretend ... Products or the ads they contain also must not
    mimic functionality or warnings from the operating system
    or other apps.
    Products must
    ....

    I have seen tons of ads through admob, that are actually mimicking functionality (e.g. a flashing "1" on top of an email icon, which suggests you having a new email msg).

    How could we influence what ads admob is sending us? That's a google company!!!! Are we now responsible, if google allows such ads in their ad network?

    Maybe this is a bit paranoid, but I rather read those new terms to the last letter ....

    Opinions?
  • IMHO it is for different advertisers than AdMob. Simply what they want to do is to kill competition...
  • @sylviathewitch: That did not cross my mind, but yeah, are we allowed to have link to another app from our own app? Hm, very confusing.
  • edited March 2014
    Also, I found this:

    Finally, Google has clarified
    that it does not allow apps that collect information about a user
    without their knowledge or permission. This includes location data and
    behaviour, as well as phishing apps, and includes products presented as a
    surveillance solution (http://www.cnet.com.au/google-cracks-down-on-dodgy-android-apps-339346959.htm)

    Amazon ads want to know your location (because they display ads only in the US). If I understand this correctly, it's better not to have Amazon Ads in apps, which are published on GP?

    EDIT:
    "Users
    will probably be happy to know that promotions via deceptive ads on
    websites, apps and other properties, or forced downloads without
    informed user action are banned."

    I don't understand what is a "informed user action" and searching for it on the web also doesn't yield any results.

    Here is a point-by-point breakdown of the new policies: http://www.androidpolice.com/2014/03/28/google-updates-play-store-developer-program-policies-to-crack-down-on-deceptive-ads/

    EDIT 2:
    Q: So if I have a free and a paid version of my app, and I have buttons in
    the free version which open the play store and show the paid version is
    that breaking the app promotion rules?
    A: Only if it does this "without informed user action," as mentioned.
    If the user has to tap a button and it's clear to him what this button does, that's not deceptive.
  • @hendrixs - In answer to your question I think you would be find to link to a random app of yours as well as link to the paid version of your app from your free version, and it comes down to that term "informed user action" which (in my mind) means that the user initiated the action (e.g. by clicking on a button instead of having the download of the app start automatically) and that the user knew what they were doing, (e.g. they made an informed decision).

    As far as location goes I'm not sure but I don't think that Amazon will be a problem. As they are not "tracking" or "collecting" the user's location data. But it might make sense to ask Google or Amazon.

    @ylviathewitch If those ads are coming from AdMob my guess is that they will stop pretty soon. I know some of AdMob's fill comes from a large list of providers so this might be a step towards them tightening things up.

    Of course these are just my opinions and Google is the only entity that can really answer these questions.
  • edited March 2014
    @mark: Thanks for your insight. When mentioning Amazon I had in mind these permissions:
    • Access fine (e.g., GPS) location
    • Access coarse (e.g., Cell-ID, Wi-Fi) location
    GP Developer Policies:
    • Apps that collect information (such as the user's location or behavior) without the
      user's knowledge (spyware) are prohibited.

    After reading this, I guess when the user accepts required permissions (when he installs the app), then it's OK.

    I wonder how will they police the sites that redirect to apps. Maybe they'll track "suspicious" activity or something.

  • The one that caught my eye is the one that forbids an app which merely links to someone else's webpage without their consent. Its the need to demonstrate consent that concerns. E.g. if you put BBC in an app title amazon will ask for a letter from the BBC giving permission for you to use it. Is Google going that way?
  • Are you referring to this section:

    • Do not post an app where the primary functionality is to:
      • Drive affiliate traffic to a website or
      • Provide a webview of a website not owned or administered by you (unless you have permission from the website owner/administrator to do so)
    I believe that the key term (at least in my interpretation) is the work primary that I emphasized above. I think that on Google Play you can link to a website, but that cannot be the primary focus of your app (unless you own the content or have permission from the author.
  • edited April 2014
    Regarding the following - "Promotion or install tactics which cause redirection to Google Play or the download of the app without informed user action"

    There is an activity named "Google Play" in the activity selection page by which the user can be redirected to the Google Play based on the URL that is provided. Does that fall under the section which says "without informed user action" or are we saying here that as the user has clicked hence he is aware of his actions.

    Do we need to take any extra step to ensure that we are not violating the policy.

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  • I'm also not sure about that. In one of my apps I use the Gallery dashboard and it contains the icon and apps name. It says nothing else. I'm not sure if this complies or not. :-/ Any thoughts about this?
  • @biplabghosh @hendrixs Personally I think that it's fine. The end is simply being sent to the Google Play page where they can choose to install your app or not. There is no automatic installation or forced download, they have to initiate the process themselves.

    Since the user has to click on the Install button themselves (from within the Google Play app) this falls under "informed user action" in my books.

    Of course in this case the only book that matter are Google's, so if you are concerned I would contact the Google Play team and ask them what they think.
  • @mark: Thanks for your thoughts. I'll try to find some sort of contact info, but I'm happy with your explanation as well. ;)
  • Thanks @mark for your explanation..
  • I would contact the Google Play team and ask them what they think. Easier said than done... If any of you is lucky to talk to "Google" please let us know to clarify this matter
  • @f1_fan For sure, however many people on the forums have heard back from them in the past, and email is free so there is no harm in trying.
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