Google tightens up rules for Play store applications
Google has updated the developer guidelines for Android applications in the Google Play store to take on the problems of spam, fake apps and privacy violating malware. Google says that the rules come into effect immediately and new apps must comply. Existing apps will be removed after 30 days if they do not come into compliance but Google does not explain how or when it will check existing apps.
The content policies for applications require that app developers do not impersonate or represent other companies without authorisation and that they do not divert users by passing the app off as another site or application. Apps are also required to not have names that "appear confusingly similar to existing products" or to apps that come with the device. The policy also explicitly states that collecting information such as location or behaviour is not allowed. Also forbidden are apps that download and install other apps from outside the Play Store.
Spamming the store or creating apps that post repetitive content has also been forbidden, along with apps that generate SMS or email messages without the user's consent. Apps which render another site without the permission of the site's owners are also banned, as are automated tools that create and submit apps to the store.
A whole new section in the guidelines deals with advertising, noting that ad content is subject to the same provisions as the app itself and will be considered as part of the app. Ads are no longer allowed to impersonate system notifications or warnings, or to try and confuse the user by manipulating shortcuts or default settings without telling the user. Even if the user is informed, any change must be easily reversible. Ads that force users to submit personal information in order to use the app are also prohibited.
Unlike Apple's App Store, Google staff do not vet submissions to the Play Store, relying instead on Bouncer, an automated anti-malware detector which attempts to spot applications that are badly behaved. Security researchers have, though, found Bouncer too tolerant of dangerous apps. With the new guidelines Google is better equipped legally to remove applications from its store.