In an e-mail sent out to Play Store developers earlier, Google announced several updates to its developer program policy. The e-mail mentioned changes in policy including clarification to payment policy regarding subscription billing, the restriction of the "use of names or icons confusingly similar to existing system apps" (a statement that brings back memories of Facebook's "Messenger" gaffe), clarification regarding dangerous products, and practices that violate the Play Store's spam policy, all in addition to a stringent new Ad Policy.

Here's the full text of the e-mail:

Hello Google Play Developer,

We are constantly striving to make Google Play a great community for developers and consumers. This requires us to update our policies when we launch new features, like subscription billing, and also when we see unhealthy behavior, like deceptive app names and spammy notifications. This email is to notify you that we’ve made some changes to our policies which are highlighted below.

  • We’ve added clearer details to the payment policy, and guidelines on how we will handle cancellations in our new subscription billing feature
  • We are restricting the use of names or icons confusingly similar to existing system apps in order to reduce user confusion.
  • We are providing more detail on the kinds of dangerous products that are not allowed on Google Play. For example, apps that disclose personal information without authorization are not allowed.
  • We are giving more examples of practices that violate the spam policy.

Additionally, we are adding a new section that addresses ad behavior in apps. First, we make it clear that ads in your app must follow the same rules as the app itself. Also, it is important to us that ads don’t negatively affect the experience by deceiving consumers or using disruptive behavior such as obstructing access to apps and interfering with other ads.

Please take a look at the Google Play Developer Program Policy at http://play.google.com/about/developer-content-policy.html to see all the changes and make sure your app complies with our updated policies.

Any new apps or app updates published after this notification will be immediately subject to the latest version of the Program Policy. If you find any existing apps in your catalog that don’t comply, we ask you to fix and republish the application within 30 calendar days of receiving this email. After this period, existing applications discovered to be in violation may be subject to warning or removal from Google Play.


Google Play Team

Perhaps most notably, the policy changes include very specific restrictions on misleading or intrusive ads, including (but not limited to) those that "simulate or impersonate system notifications or warnings," or "make changes to the functioning of the user’s device outside the ad." Though Jelly Bean has a notification-disabling feature baked in, an official policy change should keep your notification tray free of intrusive "spamvertising."


Click here for a text comparison between the old and new policies

From the wording of the new policy, it would seem that Airpush-style advertising may be banned, at least in cases when such ads don't identify the app that pushed them. Services that change functions of your device outside the actual app (like Sellaring) may also be banned, though the policy indicates that changes like adding bookmarks, shortcuts, or alterations to default settings can be made, but require "the user’s knowledge and consent."

Of course, the new policy doesn't define those terms, nor does it explain just what it takes to attain user knowledge and consent – it could be anything from reading a Play Store description to an actual in-app dialogue. Thankfully, the policy also points out that "it must be clear to the user which app has made the change and the user must be able to reverse the change easily, by either adjusting the settings on the device, advertising preferences in the app, or uninstalling the app altogether."

As you can see from the above e-mail, Google is taking the Play Store policy very seriously, warning that offending apps have 30 days to shape up or face the risk of removal from the store.

Overall, the revised policy represents a much-needed change in Google's stance on app advertising, one which will undoubtedly improve users' experience as well as the accountability developers have for their products.

Those interested can see the old Play Store policy here, the new policy here, or a side-by-side comparison of the two here.

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Aaron

    This seems appropriate here:

    • http://twitter.com/JordanTBlount Jordan

      Why did I laugh so hard at this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.vainshtein Alex Vainshtein

    Great, I didn't like all this airpush style platforms that place Ads in notification

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Excellent move, Google. Absolutely brilliant.

  • Freak4Dell

    Awesome. I think the real reason behind it may just be that Google wants developers using their own ad services. Of course, it's possible that AdPush and the like actually linked back to Google's services anyway...I never really looked into it. Either way, it's a great move, and if they really did do it because they care about eliminating annoyances for users, they get some bonus points.

  • siypion

    This is a good move for "Google" because with so may apps these days pushing (air push) content that is not needed to the user its a wonder it took them this long to address that issue.
    Maybe just maybe we might see the end to "TapJoy" and other such "unrelated" to your man application content.

  • Jim

    They didn't ban notification ads. Users just need to be aware of which app the notification is coming from. Easy enough for the ad networks to fix. Airpush already allows the developer to show their app name in the ad.

    • http://profiles.google.com/liamname Liam Spradlin

      From the new policy: "Ads must not simulate or impersonate system notifications or warnings."
      The quote comes after the statement about user consent, implying that, yes, notification ads are now a no-no, though I could be wrong, and it could be interpreted otherwise by either the developer or Google.

      • Dbareis

        I wouldn't read it that way, if that were the case they'd just say that notifications were not allowed. I'd read it literally, you shouldn't try to make a notification which tricks you into clicking it thinking it was another sort of notification.

        • Sander

          Yeah, I agree Dbareis. I think it's still allowed to use AirPush. They're given notification, but are not impersonating system notifications (like: there's an update available for your system, or your battery is low, click here to fix this).

        • VMX

          The way I understand it, they're banning notifications that are ADS... so of course apps can still use notifications, as long as they're not ads or try to impersonate other apps.

      • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

        To me it sounds like ads trying to deceive you into acting on it (ie: "Your wi-fi connection seems slower than usual. Press here to fix it") are not going to be tolerated anymore.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      You may be right, though I don't know of any apps that show their own name in Airpush ads. Google's goal is to make ads less intrusive and obnoxious and at the same time make it impossible for adware to appear somewhere and for you not to know what it is or who it was caused by. This includes notification ads, auto-browser-bookmarks, and auto-shortcuts.

      And adware developers will be much more easily reprimanded with these new rules in place. So it may not get rid of obnoxious methods of advertising altogether, but it should make it a whole lot better for the users.

  • Adrian

    I may be misinterpreting this but I don't think this takes out Airpush. Maybe some other networks or maybe they'll just need to change their tactics.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      "Ads Context. It must be clear to the user which app each ad is associated with or implemented in."

      I believe Airpush would fail this miserably.

  • Eye4Detail

    Thank you Google! I'm so sick of dealing with ads popping up in my notification tray!

  • moelsen8

    Good and good riddance scumbag devs. I saw this quote once that sums up my feelings on the matter as well: "airpush devs should die in a fire."

    I still want the whole f*cking day I spent searching for a notification spam app back.

    • Zomby2D

      That's why I keep Lookout Ad Network Detector on my phone at all time. Allows me to quickly find an remove spamware applications.

      • moelsen8

        this was last fall, before jellybean notification info and before lookout ad network detector and other similar ones. there was literally no way of knowing which app it was without researching the app/play store reviews and/or trial-and-error uninstalling.

  • Shahid Javaid

    Well in the morning I was thinking about these useless adds in my notification draw and here is Google's email to developers. Thumbs up Google

  • Kateremington

    i figured out that it was possible to make some income working from your home... Check here to see how i done it... http://katestipsandtricks.blogspot.com/

  • Laurence

    Slightly off-topic, but on the subject of the Play Store, I notice they now have a "Recommended for You" section on the front page. Is it just me, or is that new?

    • Kmlkmljkl

      I'm pretty sure that's new, never seen that before either.

  • anon

    Spam should remain within the app and never appear outside of the app or outside the experience of the app. Any of this behavior on a pc would be seen as malware.

  • Jeff

    This is great. I had an shortcut added to my home screen the other day without my permission.

    • Developer

      Did you bother reading the whole description of the app or the Terms if any? If you fail to read, this does not mean it was "without your permission"...

      • Christopher Lee

        Developer, I understand that you have the right to monetize your product, but I'm pretty certain Google will be enforcing some sort of a clarity standard, i.e. you cannot bury approval in the TOS/EULA. There are similar disclosure laws for things outside of the app world, and if you try to slipstream ads in by burying them in TOS text (essentially, hoping no one spots it) you will probably pay a price.

      • Zomby2D

        Even if it is buried somewhere in the terms, spamware should simply not happen. It's just bad practice from lousy developers. Any app that adds such shorcuts to my home screen will be immediately reported as malware from me.

    • Jason

      the permissions are in the app, it says "Installs shortcut" so yeah you gave permission

  • Developer

    Artem, can you ask Google what they mean by " knowledge and consent". We have some icon ads but those can be easily deleted and there is clear warning on the description page and Privacy policy that the user can delete those and that we use them.

    Please update the article once they reply, I contacted them, but maybe you will have more luck being Androidpolice and all...

  • Joey

    It also says the app cannot interfere with other ads. I wonder what this means for ad blockerapps such as AdFree

    • http://twitter.com/UnstoppableDrew Drew Marold

      Actually it says the ads in your app cannot interfere with other ads, not that your app can't.

  • Federico Stöltzing

    Has anyone tried

    Evernote para Android is it any way to export the files to a pdf?

  • Developer

    Airpush just confirmed that they are issuing a new SDK compliant to the new policies. So I think the only change will be that there will be a name of the app in the tray and a mandatory opt-in process which satisfies google.

    So No, this is not the end of Airpush.

    • Clint P

      Your're right. It's not the end of airpush. However, the fact that people will be able to easily see which apps are pushing the ads, means that they can also easily uninstall said app which reduces the income the developer makes from ads. That could potentially make an impact on how the developer decides to display ads.

      • http://appkey.com/ Hannah Gornik

        These changes will improve the Android user experience and will benefit the ecosystem.
        But it does mean that developers might have to re-evaluate their monetization strategies, as the effectiveness of some current approaches could decline when they adapt to become compliant. I think we'll see more paid and in-app purchase models, as well as some new ideas… Hannah / AppKey

  • AlmostAppleish

    What's next your app can't connect to certain websites? Your app can't mimic system apps?

    I would rather they clamp down on the parasites who modify a few lines of the git source and beg for donations.

  • Arcest

    Thank you Google

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    I know this is specific to the Play Store, but this should be extended to the requirements for pre-installed software on devices with market access. I forget who it was, but I remember reading about at least one carrier (I believe it was 2 or 3) that were pushing ads through the notification tray and there was no way to disable, opt out, remove, or otherwise prevent them from appearing.

  • http://twitter.com/RvLeshrac RvLeshrac

    So, nearly a year later and they've done literally none of this.