Google Play Store to Start Cracking Down Hard on Deceptive Apps

Developers have until June 16 to get their app houses in order

The apps you find in Google Play on your Android phone are about to get a lot more trustworthy.

Android Phone Screen
 Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Google Play is Google's Android answer to Apple's gate-keeping iOS App Store, but it's taken years for it to reach Apple's mobile app vetting rigor. Now, Google Play (and the apps inside) are about to take a major leap forward as Google revamps its Developer Program Policies. The company wants all developers to get in line by June 16, 2020.

What does Google want: In an update on its Developer Updates and Other Resources page, Google outlines nine major policy changes that apply to deceptive behavior, manipulated media, malware, and subscription policies.

What we'll see: These changes press developers on more clarity and truth when it comes to how they're charging consumers, what data they'll be collecting, including location, and even information they let consumers create. Apps won't necessarily look or work different, but they also won't be hiding what they're doing with your data and your funds,.

Bye, "fleeceware": For subscription-based apps, Google wants developers to be "transparent about your offer. This includes being explicit about your offer terms, the cost of your subscription, the frequency of your billing cycle, and whether a subscription is required to use the app." In other words, Google is targeting so-called "fleeceware," telling developers they can no longer hide the terms. In addition, Google wants the developers to notify users when there are in-app purchase costs, when a free trial is up, and advertise subscription rates by year, so customers can see the true costs.

Number of apps in Google Play store: 2.87 million

Android Phone users globally: 2 billion

Android developers globally: 5.9 million

Malware's time is up: People usually know what is and isn't malware, but now its time is up. In the new policies, Google makes it clear that even deceptive practices, like code that charges users for making premium calls without consent, could fall under the "malware" umbrella.

No fake news: Google's putting the kibosh on apps that let users manipulate media to create deep fake videos and other fake imagery. From its policy pages, "We disallow apps determined to promote or perpetuate demonstrably misleading or deceptive imagery, videos and/or text, which may cause harm pertaining to a sensitive event, politics, social issues, or other matters of public concern."

Families are covered, too: Google revamps most of its family-based ad-development policies, as well. Now apps have to disclose when they're collecting sensitive data from children and clarify Bluetooth use in family-oriented apps.

When: Google wants all apps submitted after April 16 to adhere to these policies and any apps that were made available today have just 30 days to comply. Developers with apps currently in Google Play, however, have 60 days to get their subscription systems in line.

Bottom Line: There's a new sheriff in Google Play town and all the Android apps you download from it are about to get more trustworthy. It's probably something Google should've done long ago, but millions of Android users will appreciate it anyway.

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