Google has faced the criticism that its lax level of app regulation for submissions to its Play store meant that users were subjected to offensive and intrusive content. Its revised Develop Program Policies address some of these issues.
Last Friday, August 23rd, Google sent an email to its third-party developers alerting them to its new Google Play Developer Program Policies. The new policies took immediate effects for new and updated apps and devs with existing apps have 30 days to comply after which apps found to be in violation of the new policies could be removed from Google Play.
Google Play already had a zero-tolerance policy against child sexual abuse imagery and didn't allow content that contains nudity or graphic sex acts, so no changes were needed to the section that deals with or sexually explicit material.
Similarly it hasn't needed to alter its existing policy regarding violence and bullying. However it has revised the policy relating to Hate Speech which now states:
We don't allow content advocating against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.
It has also added a clause to the Illegal Activities section that now specifies the sale of prescriptions drugs without a prescription. With regard to Gambling it has extended the policy to games of skill that offer prizes of cash or other value.
There is also one completely new section under Content Policies:
- System Interference
- An app downloaded from Google Play (or its components or derivative elements) must not make changes to the user’s device outside of the app without the user’s knowledge and consent.
- This includes behavior such as replacing or reordering the default presentation of apps, widgets, or the settings on the device. If an app makes such changes with the user’s knowledge and consent, it must be clear to the user which app has made the change and the user must be able to reverse the change easily, or by uninstalling the app altogether.
- Apps and their ads must not add homescreen shortcuts, browser bookmarks, or icons on the user’s device as a service to third parties or for advertising purposes.
- Apps and their ads must not display advertisements through system level notifications on the user’s device, unless the notifications derive from an integral feature provided by the installed app. (e.g., an airline app that notifies users of special deals, or a game that notifies users of in-game promotions).
- Apps must not encourage, incentivize, or mislead users into removing or disabling third-party apps except as part of a security service provided by the app.
The scope of the content policies has also been expanded as stated in the additional sentence:
Further, they apply to any content from your developer account which is publicly displayed in Google Play, including your developer name and the landing page of your listed developer website.
Another significant change is to do with in-app purchases where this stipulation has been added:
Developers offering virtual goods or currencies within a game downloaded from Google Play must use Google Play’s in-app billing service as the method of payment.
Changes to the ads policy are claimed by Google to streamline them and add guidance on interstitial ad behavior with the new clause being:
Interstitial ads may only be displayed inside of the app they came with. Forcing the user to click on ads or submit personal information for advertising purposes in order to fully use an app is prohibited. A prominent and accessible target must be made available to users in any interstitial ad so they may dismiss the ad without penalty or inadvertent click-through.
Taken together with the provision of the System Interference section this curbs the opportunity to install home screen icon for third-party services and show notification ads. This is a welcome change from the point of view of users who will no longer be bombarded by random ads. But what impact it will have on developer revenues from in-app advertising?