Google announces new Play Store policies around intrusive ads, impersonation, misinformation, and more

Google announces new Play Store policies around intrusive ads, impersonation, misinformation, and more
Image Credits: Android Police

In an attempt to enhance app experience and user security, Google announced new Play Store policies on Wednesday addressing issues such as brand impersonation, spreading misinformation, intrusive ads and the use of VPNs.

The policies will go into effect at different times to give developers the chance to work on them and make proper changes to the apps.

The new Google Play Store policy changes are:

Better ad experiences (September 30, 2022): Google announced a new policy to stop full-screen ads that cannot be closed within 15 seconds, and introduce opt-in ads that exceed those time limits. The policy also includes interstitial ads that appear before the app’s loading screen, like when you start playing a game.

Impersonation (August 31, 2022): Google is cracking down on unauthorized, copycat apps that use emblems and other trademark signs to imply an incorrect association with governments, companies or businesses.

Health misinformation (August 31, 2022): Google is banning apps that give out health advice or advocate treatments that can harm users, such as conversion therapy and vaccine misinformation.

Flag secure requirements (August 31, 2022): FLAG_SECURE is a toggle for developers who want to stop their content from being recorded through screenshots, which is common amongst streaming apps. Now, if you try to take a screenshot, you will see a black screen. 

VPN service (August 31, 2022): Google is prohibiting apps from using Android’s VPN services to track user data or reroute user traffic in order to earn money through ads. As noted by app researcher Mishaal Rahman in a twitter thread, this won’t affect core VPN apps, but it might affect tracking blockers like DuckDuckGo’s App Tracking Protection.

Exact alarm permissions (July 31, 2023): Some apps use Android timer API permissions to trigger alarms on user phones, which could disturb low-power modes and affect the battery. To this effect, Google applied exact alarm permissions to improve mobile battery life.

Ads and stalkware (November 1, 2022): Google also announced policy changes for ads targeting children and stalkware to increase the safety of children’s apps. Now, if an app targeting kids chooses to serve ads, it must only use ad SDKs that have self-certified compliance with Google Play policies.

If you see something out of place or would like to contribute to this story, check out our Ethics and Policy section.