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Updates to Google Play Policies on Trust, Control and Deceptive Content; Special Update for Covid-19

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Updates to Google Play Policies on Trust, Control and Deceptive Content; Special Update for Covid-19

22 April 2020

22/04/2020
Technology & Regulation in the Spotlight

Google has recently announced a series of policy changes to its Google Play Store Developer Program policies, aimed at eliminating untrustworthy applications, enhancing users’ control over their personal data, increasing in-app subscriptions transparency and preventing deceptive applications and media including the use of “deepfakes”:

  • Manipulated Media: Google has chosen to tackle the use of “deepfakes” by introducing a new Manipulated Media Policy. From now on, Google will not allow applications that promote or help create false or misleading information claims conveyed through imagery, video and text. Google specifically relates to manipulated content that may cause harm related to politics, social issues, sensitive events or other matters of public concern. Applications that manipulate or alter media, beyond conventional and editorially acceptably adjustments, will be required to disclose or watermark altered media when it may not be clear to the average person that the media has be altered. Exceptions may apply for public interest or obvious satire or parody.
  • Location Policy: In its new Location Policy, Google identifies location data as personal and sensitive data and prohibits requesting access to background location unless it is required for the application’s core functionality. Applications should request the minimal scope necessary to provide the services that require location and developers shall never request location permissions from users for the sole purpose of advertising and analytics. Applications will be allowed to access location information while “in use” only if the use has been initiated by the user’s action and will be terminated immediately after the intended use is completed. Realizing that compliance with the Location Policy may require substantial work, Google is giving developers time to comply. According to its Help Center, no action will be taken for new applications until August 2020 or November 2020 for existing applications.
  • Subscriptions Policy: The aim of the Subscriptions Policy is to cut down on misleading subscriptions where applications are unclear about the terms of their subscriptions and free trials. According to the updated policy, developers will need to be explicit about the terms of the subscriptions, trials and offers they provide. Developers will need to disclose whether a subscription is required to use all parts of the application, the cost, frequency of billing cycle, duration of free trials and offers, what do they include, when they convert to paid subscription and how users can cancel such conversions. Google also added a new feature that is sending emails to users who entered a free trials when the free trial is about to
    end. While all new applications will be required to comply with this policy immediately, existing applications will have until June 15, 2020 to comply.
  • Families Policy: If one of the target audiences of an application is children, its developers will have to disclose the collection of any personal and sensitive information from children by the application, including through APIs and SDKs. When associated with children, sensitive information shall include authentication information, microphone and camera sensor data, device data, Android ID, ad usage data and advertising ID. Finally, Google prohibits spammy and manipulative ads and monetization practices in applications that are designed specifically for children and are part of the Designed for Families program.

Any new apps or app updates published after 16 Apri 2020 will immediately be subject to the latest version of the policies. Apps available on Google Play as of 16 April will have 30 days from this date to come into compliance to prevent removal (unless otherwise noted as per the above).

These policy changes can be seen within the context of our previous reports on Google’s efforts to provide its users better protection and control over their data and privacy when browsing the internet and using applications.

In addition, Google adapted its policies to support the adapting requirements and needs during the Covid-19 Pandemic. According to Google’s publication on its blog, Google will prioritize Covid-19 related applications, which will only be approved if they are published, commissioned, or authorized by an official government entity or public health organization and as long as they do not contain any monetization mechanisms. Google is also warning developers of possible delays in application review due to a reduction in workforce in time of the pandemic and the prioritization of Covid-19 applications. With recent increase in traffic and a spike in one-star reviews by users in recent weeks, Google expanded its ability to assess and remove inappropriate application reviews that are not related to the application’s actual experience which will enable it to handle requests more quickly.

 

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Please feel free to approach us with any further questions regarding the legal considerations and practical implications of the new regulatory frameworks that apply to using AI technologies.

Kind regards,

Ariel Yosefi, Partner

Co-Head | Technology & Regulation Department

Herzog Fox & Neeman

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