Google announced a new Play Store developer policy on Wednesday that aims to address issues with intrusive ads, alarms, VPNs and impersonation of brands and other apps. The company said this policy will go into effect for different time periods to give developers plenty of time to make changes to their apps.
The search giant is committed to improving user security and app experiences through these policies, it says.
Here’s a list of what Google has announced and when this policy goes into effect:
Better ad experiences (September 30, 2022): In-game ads can be annoying and Google wants to improve on that. This policy prohibits full screen ads that cannot be closed after 15 seconds. Opt-in ads, such as an ad to see rewards for a game, may exceed these time limits.
The company prohibits full-screen interstitial ads that appear before the app loading screen, when you start a level, or also during gameplay.
Impersonation (August 31, 2022): To ban copycat apps, Google is taking action against unauthorized apps that imply association with governments, corporations and corporations. For example, apps shouldn’t use national emblems and government organizations to trick people into thinking it’s an official app. Likewise, developers are not allowed to use icons to indicate that they are officially affiliated with a company, artist or TV show if they are not authorized to do so.
Wrong health information (August 31, 2022): The company bans apps that argue against the generally accepted medical consensus or provide health advice that could harm users. It cited examples of apps advocating unapproved treatments, harmful practices such as conversion therapy, and misinformation about vaccines that could be removed from the Play Store.
Highlight Secure Requirements (August 31, 2022): The FLAG_SECURE is a switch for developers who want to prevent onscreen content from being recorded through screenshots. If you try to take one, all you see is a black screen. This is common with streaming apps. So other apps, with the exception of accessibility tools like screen readers, should not bypass this flag in any way and attempt to record content on the screen.
VPN Service (August 31, 2022): The company prohibits apps from using Android’s VPN services to track user data or redirect user traffic to monetize ads. Core VPN apps aren’t affected, but as app researcher Mishaal Rahman pointed out, tracking blockers like DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection can be affected. (We’ve asked DuckDuckGo for a response.)
Exact alarm rights (July 31, 2023): Android provides APIs for timer and alarm apps to trigger alarms at exact times. However, if other apps use these permissions, it can interfere with the phone’s power saving modes when not needed and affect the battery. The stricter enforcement around exact alarm permissions is intended to help improve the battery life of the device.
The company has also announced policy changes for child-targeted ads and stalkerware to increase the safety of apps used by children, effective November 1, 2022. Google says that if an app that targets children only shows ads, it may only use advertising SDKs that have self-certified compliance with Google Play policies.
The new policy changes come days after Google enforced its policy of promulgating safety labels for apps on July 20. The company hopes this new policy will remove games and apps with intrusive ads, misinformation and privacy-violating rights.