Google Updates Android App Developer Rules to Fight Spam, Malware

Google made a number of changes to its rules that application developers must follow when submitting mobile apps to its Google Play app store. Many of the changes are meant to address spam and malicious behavior.

Google has updated its developer policies to take a bite out of spam applications on Google Play.

In an email published on Android Central, the Google Play team stated that it was updating its policies to address unhealthy behavior, such as deceptive application names and spammy notifications.

Among the changes are new restrictions placed on names or icons that are too similar to other applications in order to prevent confusion. In addition, the Google Play team said it is providing more detail on the kinds of apps that will not be allowed on Google Play, such as apps that disclose personal information without authorization.

"We are giving more examples of practices that violate the spam policy," according to the email. "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."

In July, Google and Apple pulled an app named "Find and Call" from their app stores after it was found to be sending user contact lists to a remote server and spamming contacts with messages. The app claimed to be designed to help users organize their address book.

Google also fended off initial reports in July that an Android botnet was spamming victims after researchers with Microsoft and Sophos blogged about the situation. In response, Google stated spammers were using "infected computers and a fake mobile signature" to bypass email anti-spam features.

As part of the policy, Google mandates that apps be non-malicious and they are prohibited from collecting information without the user's knowledge. The policy also bans apps from sending Short Message Service (SMS), email or other messages on behalf of the user without providing the user with the ability to confirm both the content and intended recipient. Another provision blocks apps whose primary functionality is to drive affiliate traffic to a Website or provide a Web view of a site not owned or administered by the developer without the true owner/administrator's permission.

Google also made some additions related to the payment policy and guidelines on how the company will handle cancellations in its new subscription billing feature.

"Any new apps or app updates published after this notification will be immediately subject to the latest version of the Program Policy," the Google Play team stated in the email. "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."