Google enforcing crackdown on deceptive Android ads

Google_android_logoLast week Google updated its policy which informs developers that Google will be cracking down on deceptive ads and other nefarious behaviours in Android apps.

Google’s approach to target the developers is for me also a message for the mobile ad networks and affiliates. It’s subtle, but equally direct and highlights Google’s awareness of the issues surrounding deceptive advertising on the Android platform.

The major change is the addition of a new section of the Google Play Developer Program Policy called “App Promotion”. The new section is for apps published on Google Play, which may directly or indirectly engage in or benefit from the following behaviours:

  • Promotion via deceptive ads on websites, apps or other properties, including simulated system, service, or app notifications or alerts.
  • Promotion or install tactics which cause redirection to Google Play or the download of the app without informed user action.
  • Unsolicited promotion via SMS services.

The policy says that it is a developers responsibility to ensure that no ad network or affiliate uses such methods to direct users to pages that make your app available for download – really? Talk about slightly passing the buck! App developers are also being warned about the following (app reviews would help enforce these changes):

  • Downloading apps by simulating a system dialogue box – this is infamous from the Windows world.
  • User interface impersonation of an app – again as above.
  • No longer use the SMS function without obtaining explicit user consent.
  • In-app purchasing – this needs to be more clear when engaging with users – possible prompts – but this might be termed “nagware”?
  • Apps are not allowed to modify the browser settings as well as adding the annoying homescreen shortcuts, bookmarks and icons – aka Windows world.

Although Google is targeting developers, I’ve stated already that I do feel that this is actually really targeting the ad networks and affiliates. It’s also only a matter of time before Google and antivirus vendors look to developing a more robust adware classification to help with detecting suspicious app and ad library behaviours. Watch this space.

Safe surfing folks!

Bootnote: Read more – Google Play Developer Program Policy 

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