Google Play app developer guidelines overhauled

Android robot

End users should still tread with caution when downloading content from the Google Play store, despite the internet giant's recent clampdown on bad developer behaviour.

This is the view of Jovi Umawing, a research analyst at security vendor GFI Software, who has repeatedly flagged malicious apps and content on the Google Play store in the past.

As reported by IT Pro last week, one of the firm's most recent discoveries was a piece of malware disguised as a legitimate-looking Olympics 2012 app.

The buyer should always beware, and take note of the reviews and opinions from third party websites.

Google sent an email out to its community of app developers earlier this week, announcing that it had tightened up its Google Play Developer Programme Policies.

For instance, the firm is now restricting the use of app names and icons that are similar to existing ones, and clamping down on software that unlawfully discloses personal information.

The company has also introduced user guidelines that address the behaviour of adverts contained in apps.

"Ads in your app must follow the same rules as the app itself," stated the email. "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."

The new guidelines will apply to new apps and updated ones, added Google, and developers that fail to comply could have their apps deleted.

"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," added Google.

In a statement to IT Pro, GFI's Umawing applauded Google's attempt to secure and clean up the Play store, but said more still needs to be done.

"The most significant part of the [new policy document] is the section that prohibits...sexually explicit content [from app adverts]," she said.

"This effectively bans certain types of advertising networks from being used in apps. If those are the networks primarily used by scammers to make money then they may well go elsewhere."

There is also a danger the changes Google has introduced may be misinterpreted by some users as an assurance that illegitimate apps will no longer feature in the store, Umawing warned.

"The buyer should always beware, and take note of the reviews and opinions from third party websites before installing any application," she added.

"It also pays to consult the Google Play Developer Program Policy when they need to, as this page outlines what apps they should download, steer clear from and report to Google for violation."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.