Google cracks down on untrustworthy Android apps

Google has announced several changes to its Play Store policies which are targeted at removing untrustworthy apps from the platform.

Apps published after 16 April will be subject to these updated policies immediately, while other apps will have 30 days from 16 April to comply.

Apps which do not comply with these policies will be removed from the Google Play Store platform.

Some of the changes are outlined below.

Deceptive Behaviour

Notable changes have been made to the Google Play Store’s Deceptive Behaviour policies, with Google’s goal being to identify and emphasize functionally deceptive apps.

“Apps must provide an accurate disclosure, description and images/video of their functionality in all parts of the metadata and should perform as reasonably expected by the user,” the new policy states.

Apps must also not attempt to mimic functionality or warnings from the operating system or other apps, and any changes to device settings must be made with the user’s knowledge and consent.

Manipulated Media

“We don’t allow apps that promote or help create false or misleading information or claims conveyed through imagery, videos and/or text,” said Google.

It said apps that manipulate or alter media beyond editorially acceptable adjustments – like, for example, airbrushing a photograph – must “prominently disclose or watermark altered media when it may not be clear to the average person that the media has been altered”.

It said that exceptions can be made to content in the public interest, or for obvious satire or parody.

This policy change appears to be targeted partially at deepfakes, and examples of “common violations” include:

  • Apps adding a public figure to a demonstration during a politically sensitive event.
  • Apps using public figures or media from a sensitive event to advertise media altering capability within an app’s store listing.
  • Apps that alter media clips to mimic a news broadcast.

Subscription

Google also said that apps which offer subscription services must be transparent about the offer.

“This includes being explicit about your offer terms, the cost of your subscription, the frequency of your billing cycle, and whether a subscription is required to use the app,” said Google.

“Users should not have to perform any additional action to review the information.”

Examples of common violations include:

  • Monthly subscriptions that do not inform users they will be automatically renewed and charged every month.
  • Annual subscriptions that most prominently display their pricing in terms of monthly cost.
  • Subscription pricing and terms that are incompletely localized.
  • In-app promotions that do not clearly demonstrate that a user can access content without a subscription (when available).
  • SKU names that do not accurately convey the nature of the subscription, such as “Free Trial” for a subscription with an auto-recurring charge.

Updates have also been added to the Google Play Store’s Malware, Families, Families Ads, Monetization, and Location policies.

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Google cracks down on untrustworthy Android apps