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Google cracks down on rogue Android apps with new Play Store review process

Firm also introduces regional age ratings for all apps

Google has overhauled the way it approves apps in its Play Store, employing a human task force to eliminate inappropriate and copyright-infringing software. In addition, all apps on the Play Store will need to be given an age rating, a process that must be undertaken by developers before May.

In a post on the Android Developers’ blog, the firm explained that its new process would help to eliminate apps that break its terms of service quicker than its reactive policies of old. Google Play product manager Eugine Kim claimed that the new process takes “hours… rather than days or weeks”. Indeed, Google says it’s been operating this system for a few months and claimed there’d been no noticable change for developers.

The policy is similar to the way Apple handles new apps in its store, although that system has long come under fire for being too opaque about exactly why apps are rejected. Google has covered off that cause for concern by saying it’s also going to start giving developers more insight on why their apps have been rejected or removed from the Play Store.

In addition, developers are now required to fill out a questionnaire in order to create an age-appropriate rating for their apps. These vary from region to region, with European users seeing a PEGI rating and North American customers seeing ESRB classifications, for example. Google warned that unrated apps may be blocked in certain regions, and that all new apps and app updates that are pushed to the Play Store from May will require a rating to be provided by developers.

Consistent with industry best practices, this change will give developers an easy way to communicate familiar and locally relevant content ratings to their users and help improve app discovery and engagement by letting people choose content that is right for them,” Kim explained.

These two changes to the way Google handles its Play Store is important as the firm seeks to avoid the proliferation of high-profile, fraudulent apps such as those that came to light when Flappy Bird was removed from app stores last year. While a strength of the Play ecosystem is its openness, a certain degree of oversight is required to stop rogue apps from damaging its reputation.

Google is becoming increasingly family friendly: last month, it (briefly) banned adult content on its Blogger service and simultaneously launched YouTube for Kids, a new app delivering wholesome content suitable for young children. 

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