New Google Play Store rules target annoying ads and counterfeit encryption apps

Google is trying to reduce annoying unskippable ads in Android apps and generally bad behavior in the Play Store (via Take Crunch). The company announced wide-ranging policy changes on Wednesday that update the rules across several categories to be more specific, and crack down on loopholes that developers may have used to get around the existing rules.

One of the changes that will affect your daily phone usage the most is ads. Google says its updated guidelines, which will take effect on September 30, help ensure “high-quality experiences for users when they use Google Play apps”. The new policy tells developers that apps cannot display a full screen ad and you are not allowed to close it after 15 seconds. There are some exceptions – if you voluntarily choose to watch an advertisement to get some kind of bonus points, or if you appear during a break in the action, these rules will not necessarily apply.

Google’s current policy states that ads “should be easily dismissable without penalty” and that you should be able to close ads in full screen, but the 15-second standard is new. Although this is still a bit of a wait, it does make you wait so you don’t have to sit through a two minute ad where the “x” (the small, hard to see) “x” doesn’t appear until 70 seconds later, in the middle of the game or while trying do something else.

One Google example of an ad that breaks the rules.
Gif: Google

The new rules also specify that ads should not be “unpredictable”, appearing as soon as a level or article is loaded. Again, existing rules already state that disruptive surprise ads are not allowed, but the new rules provide additional concrete examples of violations.

It’s worth noting that the advertising policies of apps made for kids are stricter. While Google doesn’t change much about the types of ads ad developers can show to kids, it will make some changes to the tools developers use to serve these ads, starting in November.

Google is also making changes to how apps implement and use the VPN built into Android (or FifthEarthwall sexhaust nnetwork tools). Apps will not be allowed to implement their own VPNs to collect user data unless they obtain explicit permission from the user, and they will not be able to use VPNs to help users bypass or change ads from other apps. Mishaal Rahman, Esper Technical Editor, noted on Twitter this It can help clamp down on advertising fraud Users claim to be clicking on ads from one country when they are actually in another but says what can also It affects things like DuckDuckGo’s privacy-focused app tracking protection.

Google’s new rules include many other changes as well. For example, developers will be required to link to an “easy-to-use online method” to cancel subscriptions in their apps if their app sells subscriptions — the company says linking to the Google Play subscription center is important. Google is also cracking down on misinformation, adding a section that says apps can’t contain misinformation about unapproved vaccines, treatments, or “other harmful health practices, such as conversion therapy.”

The update also makes some changes to language about monitoring apps, or “stalkerware,” saying that any app built to track people must use a specific tag telling Google what it’s doing and that apps must say they can monitor or track you in the Play Store description. (These types of apps are still only allowed to track employees and children—Google says explicitly that using these apps to track someone else, like a spouse, is prohibited, even if the user claims the person being tracked knows.)

There’s one humorous piece of information in the updated “Impersonation” section – as well as other companies, developers, and organizations, Google’s new rules say developers can’t try to trick people into thinking their app is linked to an “entity” if they aren’t. As an example of what this means, Google is showing an app with icons that can trick users into thinking they are associated with a government or cryptocurrency project. (There’s also a funny line about how you can’t name your app “Justin Bieber Official” unless you’re actually Justin Bieber or have permission from him, but that was already in the current instructions.)

Not allowed: Use of the Fishcoin logo in your app icon.
Image: google

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

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