Google cracks down on misleading, intrusive apps in Play store

Android apps that constantly advertise via the system notifications bar and others that provide what Google deems a "poor user experience" through intrusive or misleading marketing will be banned from the Play store, the company announced this week in an email to developers.

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The Google Play Developer Content Policy has been updated to provide tougher, less ambiguous rules on a host of controversial developer behaviors, covering everything from keyword stuffing in app descriptions and gaming user ratings via incentives to submitting automatically generated apps to the Play store on behalf of third parties. Additionally, apps that can send emails or text on a user's behalf must now allow them to review all messages to be sent.

What's more, a new section was added to the policy, clarifying the rules for in-app advertising and explicitly stating "developer terms apply to the entire user experience of your application/extension." This places the burden on developers to ensure that any advertising in their apps conforms to the same content and functionality rules that apply to the apps themselves.

Another part of the updated policy mandates that any changes to the user's device made outside of the app -- like adding browser bookmarks or changing system settings -- must be made explicitly clear to the user, and offer an unambiguous opportunity to decline or reverse the changes.

Any ads that require users to click on them or provide personal information in order to get the app to work are now banned, as well, as are those that interfere with ads not associated with the app.

Email Jon Gold at and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

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