Compared to Apple, Google takes a more laissez-faire attitude toward its app store, but the search giant is once again making efforts to clean up Google Play. This time around Google is making it harder for Android apps to push other apps on you with scammy tactics such as simulated system alerts, sudden redirects to Google Play, and sending SMS spam to your friends.
All of these tactics are designed to trick or coerce you and the people you know into downloading more apps.
Under a new section called "App Promotion" Google added the following to its Google Play developer policies:
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.
You might, for example, see an app that pops up what looks like an Android alert asking you to download another app.
The hope is that with these new policies, shady developers will back off of these tactics or risk having their apps pulled.
Google is also putting the onus upon developers to make sure any ad networks or affiliate programs they use don't use similar scam tactics inside their apps.
Scammy ads and apps have long been a problem for Android. In 2011, we told you about how some apps were using scareware tactics to push people to "upgrade their device's battery" by downloading a battery-saving app. And in 2012, our review of the most annoying Android apps included several apps overloaded with ads or included scammy advertising.
Google's latest changes follow another set of developer policy changes in 2012 that were also meant to clean up Google Play.
While it's great to see Google improving Google Play, one area where I've often found scareware style ads lately are mobile websites. Similar to scammy apps, these sites use scareware-style ads offering to improve your Android device's performance with a simple download.
There's probably little Google can do about website ads, however, unless those sites have an associated app in Google Play.
In addition to the changes in its advertising and app-promotion policies, Google also changed its wording to clamp down on apps with pornographic content by prohibiting "erotic content."