Google’s new Play Store rules target annoying ads and copycat crypto apps

Google tries to reduce annoying, unskipped ads in Android apps and general bad behavior in the Play Store (via TechCrunch). The company announced extensive policy changes on Wednesday that update the rules in several categories to be more specific, and address loopholes that developers may have used to circumvent existing rules.

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One of the changes that most impact your day-to-day phone usage is for ads. Google says the updated guidelines, which come into effect on September 30, will help ensure “a high-quality experience for users when using Google Play apps.” The new policy tells developers that apps can’t show a full-screen ad, so you can’t close them after 15 seconds. There are some exceptions: if you voluntarily choose to watch an ad to get some sort of reward points, or if they pop up during a break in the action, those rules don’t necessarily apply.

Google’s current policy says ads should be “rejected easily and without penalty” and you should be able to close fullscreen ads, but the 15-second benchmark is new. While that’s a bit of a wait, it saves you from having to sit through a two-minute ad where the (small, hard-to-see) “x” only appears after 70 seconds, right in the middle of a game or while you’re playing. trying to do something else.

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One of Google’s examples of a rule-breaking ad.
Gif: Google

The new rules also specify that ads should not be ‘unexpected’ immediately after you load a level or article. Again, the current rules already say that surprising disruptive ads are not allowed, but the new rules provide additional concrete examples of violations.

It’s worth noting that the advertising policies for apps made for children are stricter. While Google isn’t making a lot of changes to the types of ads developers can show to kids, starting in November it will be making some changes to the tools developers use to show those ads.

Google is also making changes to the way apps use Android’s built-in VPN (or virual prival nnetwork) tools. Apps are not allowed to implement their own VPNs to collect user data unless they get explicit consent from the user, nor will they be able to use VPNs to help users circumvent or modify advertisements from other apps. Mishaal Rahman, a technical editor for Esper, pointed out on Twitter that this could help prevent ad fraud where users pretend to click ads from one country while in another country but says that it could also affect things like DuckDuckGo’s privacy-focused app tracking protection.

Google’s new rules also include several other changes. For example, developers will have to link to an “easy-to-use, online method” for unsubscribing in their app if their app sells subscriptions — the company does say that linking to Google Play’s subscription center counts. Google also tackles health misinformation, adding a section stating that apps should not contain misleading information about vaccines, unapproved treatments, or “other harmful health practices, such as conversion therapy.”

The update also makes some changes to the language around app monitoring, or “stalkerware,” by saying that any app made to track people must use a specific flag to tell Google what it does and that apps should. say they can track or follow you in their Play Store description. (These types of apps are still only allowed to track employees and children – Google explicitly says that using these apps to track someone else, such as a spouse, is prohibited, even if the user claims that the person being tracked is aware of this. height.)

There’s a slightly humorous tidbit in the updated “Impersonation” section — among other companies, developers, and organizations, Google’s new rules say developers shouldn’t try to trick people into thinking their app is associated with an “entity” if it isn’t. . As an example of what this means, Google is showing an app with iconography that can trick users into thinking it’s associated with a government or cryptocurrency project. (There’s also a funny rule about how you can’t call your app “Justin Bieber Official” unless you’re actually Justin Bieber or have his permission, but it was already in the existing guidelines.)

Not allowed: Use Fishcoin logo in your app icon.
Image: Google

This example seems to be perfect timing from Google. Although the policy won’t take effect until the end of August, the company announced it just a day before Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent it a letter requesting more information about scammy crypto apps on the Play Store.

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