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Google Play Policy Updates: Enhanced Clarity, Extended Timelines for Compliance, New Policies and Other Changes

12 July 2020

Technology & Regulation in the Spotlight

Google has recently announced significant changes to the Google Play Developer Policy. These updates include greater grace periods for new enforcement actions, clearer explanations on violations, both in various Google Play Policies and in violation emails, new policies for News apps and unwanted mobile software, as well as modifications to the policies on children and families, user-generated content in Augmented Reality apps, and permissions. Below are detailed the key updates:

General changes:

  • Enhanced Clarity: A migration of Google’s Policy Center to a new platform was combined with revised and simplified language in various categories of policies, including more screenshots and examples with the aim of greater clarity. For the same purpose, communications regarding violations will now provide more details and guidance, for example via screenshots or text excerpts. In addition, a new policy compliance section, where developers can provide evidence of compliance and watch their current status with more ease, was introduced in the Google Play Console Beta.


  • New Timelines for Compliance: Google’s new timeline for enforcement of policy updates will allow new apps and games 30 days from the announcement of a change, until they will have to ensure their compliance with it. Up until now, this 30 days’ grace period was only provided to existing apps and games, while enforcement for new apps was immediate. Google has acknowledged that some updates may require longer adaptation, and extended grace periods beyond 30 days will be provided in such cases. In addition, exact dates of enforcement will be included in policy updates in order to avoid confusion.


New policies:

  • Mobile Unwanted Software: This new policy outlines Google’s principles and guidelines for the Android ecosystem and Google Play Store, and violation of them may lead to enforcement actions. The policy elaborates on three main expected apps characteristics: transparent behavior, user data protection, and clear and harmless user experience. Alongside of this policy, with the aim of greater clarity, several existing policies will remain grouped under their current subject. For example, guidelines on user data and permissions will remain grouped under the “Privacy and Device Abuse” policy.


  • UGC Controls in AR apps: User Generated Content within Augmented Reality (“AR“) apps must be moderated. This moderation must account for, and allow user reporting of, inter alia, AR content that is anchored to sensitive locations (such as military bases) and objectionable images (e.g. a sexually explicit AR image).


  • News Apps: Google added a new policy section for News apps that imposes several obligations and restrictions in order for them to mark themselves as such apps. Details about the news publisher, including valid contact information and disclosure of contributions and ownership are now mandatory. In these apps, a significant amount of spelling or grammar errors is now forbidden, content may not be solely static, and affiliate marketing or revenue from ads cannot be their leading purpose. News aggregator apps must also clearly disclose their publishing sources. In addition, a content preview must be provided in News apps that require membership.


  • Children and Families: Google has clarified that apps that target both children and older audiences may still participate in the “Designed for Families” program, which would also allow them to be rated in the “Teacher Approved” program. However, participation in the latter isn’t guaranteed. Google has also noted certain ad behaviors which are prohibited in apps whose main audience are children. The users of such apps must be able to close ads that interfere with normal app use or gameplay after 5 seconds. In the absence of such interference, ads may be presented longer, as long as a timer is displayed.


  • All Files Access Permissions: Google has clarified that due to Covid-19 constraints, Android 11 (API level 30) apps that require the “all files access” permission, which is the new version of the “manage external storage” permission, will not be able to use it until an unspecified date in 2021. Google recommends that developers that require this permission for their core functionality will continue targeting Android 10 (API level 29), while using the abovementioned “manage external storage” permission.


These policy changes will require developers to review their existing and new apps distributed via Google Play, and to address and remedy various compliance aspects. These changes, together with significant policy changes introduced with respect to extensions in Google Chrome Store (see our related report), demonstrate an increased scrutiny by Google concerning apps and extensions distributed through its platforms. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding the compliance of your aps with the constantly updated app stores’ policies.

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Kind regards,

Ariel Yosefi, Partner

Co-Head | Technology & Regulation Department

Herzog Fox & Neeman

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