Google Announces Many Changes to Its Store Policies to Reduce Fraud, Impersonation, Ads, Spy Apps and More

Google needs to adjust Google Play Developer Policies from time to time to accommodate new market circumstances and permission changes included with each new version of Android. The company just announced lots of news in your google play policies.

Some of the innovations are clarifications of existing policies, while others aim to set limits and prevent abuse. The changes cover permission usage, ad abuse, VPN service usage, misinformation, phishing, subscriptions, and more.

Precise alarm, for clocks and calendars

Alarm

Google is tidying up permissions, which is evident with the multitude of changes that have been introduced in Android 13. One of these new permissions is USE_EXACT_ALARMavailable since Android 13, and Google wants to make sure that be used exclusively for what it was designed for: alarms.

This way you can know which apps you are using which are outdated and cannot be downloaded from Google Play anytime soon

Google will only allow apps in its store that use this permission if your main function requires the use of exact alarms, like a clock application. In all other cases, such as apps that show notifications that the user can or cannot use, they should continue to use the permission instead. SCHEDULE_EXACT_ALARMwhich works similarly but must be granted by the user.

Prohibited health disinformation

covid

Google has included a clarification in their policy to make it clear that they do not allow apps on Google Play that contain misleading health claimsthat contradict existing medical consensus or that may cause harm to users.

Some examples cited by Google are applications that include misleading claims about vaccines, such as altering a person’s DNA, promoting harmful or unapproved health treatments, etc. This policy has been in effect since August 31.

Identity theft: no thanks

deceive

On the same August 31, some clarifications on Google Play’s impersonation policy, which was already in effect, without much success, all is said, come into force. Google has seen fit to specify that applications that impersonate other entities or organizationsand added some more examples to illustrate it.

The rule is clear “don’t suggest your app is linked or authorized when it isn’t”, and that applies to the name, icon, description, or anything else. The policy also prevents an application from use an icon very similar to other popular apps. Google gives us examples of apps that include the Bitcoin logo or include a cartoon character in their icon: without official permission, none belong on Google Play.

VPNService is for VPN

vpn

There are also changes in applications that use the class VPNService to create a secure connection to a remote server. These must be applications with a basic VPN functionalitywith a few exceptions: parental control applications, which are used to log application usage, security applications such as antivirus or firewall, remote access applications, web browsers or carrier apps that need a VPN for their services.

Any other use has no place in Google Play from November 1, but Google wanted to specifically clarify certain uses that are not allowed: using a VPN to collect information without consent, redirect monetization traffic, or manipulate ads. Apps that use the VPNService must document their usage in the Google Play listing and encrypt the data.

No more out of the blue ads

A d

It’s happened to all of us: playing or using a mobile app and suddenly an ad pops up in full screen out of the blue, and that there seems to be no human way to stop. Google clarifies the types of ads that are not allowed on Google Play: full screen ads that appear out of nowhere.

Ads are also prohibited. make you wait 15 seconds, if they appear “out of nowhere”. That is, they are allowed if they do not interrupt the user (for example, they are displayed at the end of a level) or if they are part of a reward for unlocking something in an application or a Game.

subscriptions

susc

Google has been battling subscription abuse for some time and now wants facilitate the unsubscription of a subscriptionfrom the application itself and without having to navigate the menus of Google Play.

Apps that include subscriptions should clearly show the user how to manage and cancel their subscriptions, adding a simple way to unsubscribe, for example in your settings. This policy comes into effect on September 30.

Monitor, yes. spy, not

Family

Google Play allows app monitoring, but not spying. Applications that collect personal information about users and transmit it to a third party must display it prominently and obtain permission in accordance with the data use policy.

These types of apps are allowed for parental control or business use, but it is permissible to use them to, for example, spy on your partner. Applications of this type cannot hide their function, they must show a permanent notification that the application is in use and, above all, must not aim to spy on someone without their knowledge. These types of apps must include special metadata that identifies them as a surveillance app, starting November 1.

Forbidden to bypass FLAG_SECURE

I do not know

Finally, Google does not want applications in its store whose objective is to ignore SECURE_FLAGthe system used by some applications to prevent you from taking screenshotswhich appear in black.

The apps with accessibility permission they can still “see” the content of these protected apps, which is useful for users of this type of app, but Google does not allow apps whose purpose is just that. In other words, an accessibility app that does this as part of its function, yes; an application whose purpose is only that, no.

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