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Google Android Privacy Software Spam

Google Clamps Down On Spam, Intrusive Ads In Apps 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the their-way-or-the-highway dept.
An anonymous reader tips news that Google has sent out a letter to app developers explaining policy changes for any new apps published on the Google Play store. In-app purchases must now use Google Play's payment system unless it's for goods or services used outside the app itself. They've added language to dissuade developers from making their apps look like other apps, or like they come from other developers. But more significantly, Google has explained in detail what qualifies as spam: repetitive content, misleading product descriptions, gaming the rating system, affiliate traffic apps, or apps that send communications without user consent. Also, advertisements within apps must now follow the same rules as the app itself, and they can't be intrusive: Ads can't install things like shortcuts or icons without consent, they must notify the user of settings changes, they can't simulate notifications, and they can't request personal information to grant full app function.
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Google Clamps Down On Spam, Intrusive Ads In Apps

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  • Fuck you, Apple! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:49PM (#40848025)

    In-app purchases must now use Google Play's payment system unless it's for goods or services used outside the app itself.

    Goddamn money-grubbing, parasitic Apple always trying to take a take a cut from other people's hard work. Oh wait, this is Google doing it? Oh, never mind then.

    • Re:Fuck you, Apple! (Score:5, Informative)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:55PM (#40848105)

      You could go use the Amazon market.

      I agree google is getting greedy here, but on the other hand some devs want you to upgrade to add free by paying them via paypal, which ends up meaning you have to pay again and again when you install that app on new devices.

    • Goddamn money-grubbing, parasitic Apple always trying to take a take a cut from other people's hard work. Oh wait, this is Google doing it?

      Both Google and Apple require apps in their online store with in-app purchase to use their respective payment system for purchases (Google has exceptions for purchases of things used outside of the app itself, and I think Apple has a similar exception.) So far, pretty similar.

      OTOH, Android, unlike iOS, allows consumers to install apps not delivered through the OS vendors

      • by Anonymous Coward

        As a very nasty side-effect of Google requiring all in-app purchases to go through Checkout, only US and UK based companies can develop apps which use in-app purchases and still be in the Play store.

        • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @10:47PM (#40851581)

          As a very nasty side-effect of Google requiring all in-app purchases to go through Checkout, only US and UK based companies can develop apps which use in-app purchases and still be in the Play store.

          The actual list [google.com] of supported countries is slightly longer. Currently:
          Argentina
          Australia
          Austria
          Belgium
          Brazil
          Canada
          Czech Republic
          Denmark
          Finland
          France
          Germany
          Hong Kong
          Ireland
          Israel
          Italy
          Japan
          Mexico
          Netherlands
          New Zealand
          Norway
          Poland
          Portugal
          Russia
          Singapore
          Spain
          South Korea
          Sweden
          Switzerland
          Taiwan
          United Kingdom
          United States

    • Bah, I can't seem to care. It's just a dispute among ruthless businesses on how to share the spoils from exploiting their users. I mean, ads inside an app, really? Whatever, I'll continue to use Debian and leave the proprietary OSes with their crazy "business models" to the fanbois.
  • A good start (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fallingcow (213461) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:49PM (#40848027) Homepage

    Now both Google and Apple need to add (and enforce membership of) a category for free apps that are just demos for their paid counterparts.

    If the free version doesn't have enough functionality that a typical user would keep it around without buying addons or upgrading to the paid one, off to the "Demos" category it goes.

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:57PM (#40848129)

      Also a "freemium" category, I want to never see another one of those again. I will buy an app, I will use free ones, but I will not pay to continue to use a game over and over.

      • by danomac (1032160)

        I've been speaking to coworkers about app stores in general, most of them say if you paid anything for an app, you've paid too much...

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          You folks must be horribly underpaid.

          I have no problem paying for software I use, I prefer to pay for FREE software, but will used closed stuff if the need arises. I also dislike advertising, so I rather pay $1 than look at it.

          • by danomac (1032160)

            We aren't anywhere near underpaid. Most make a pretty fat wage here.

            That's not my view personally. Those are non-technical people's POV..

            I have paid for apps I use very frequently, Touchdown being one, another is a weather app that actually works and is accurate, and pocketcloud.

            Now that I have the Nexus 7, I'll be likely browsing around and buying more apps and content in general. E-books sure can be expensive though, it's ridiculous. They should all be less than $10 for sure, but I've seen some as high as

        • by oakgrove (845019)

          I've been speaking to coworkers about app stores in general, most of them say if you paid anything for an app, you've paid too much...

          Your coworkers' cynicism seems a little naive to me. True not every app is worth buying (those are the ones you, um, don't buy) but there are a few I've purchased and I'm very happy about. I've been playing Aralon [amazon.com] on my Xoom lately and I love it. It's basically Morrowind on your tablet. In some ways better than Morrowind as it streamlines the NPC interaction and you have mounts. The game is huge with a ton of depth and it is worth the measly $6.99 asking price. I've bought some more that are also very

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            I've been speaking to coworkers about app stores in general, most of them say if you paid anything for an app, you've paid too much...

            Your coworkers' cynicism seems a little naive to me. True not every app is worth buying (those are the ones you, um, don't buy) but there are a few I've purchased and I'm very happy about. I've been playing Aralon on my Xoom lately and I love it.

            There's other ways to read it.

            1) For every paid app, there's a free version that probably does the same task. Though, granted it may

          • by Inda (580031)
            I enjoy some freemium games too. You can often slowly progress thought the game having a little fun, and by the time I feel the need to pay, I'm often bored of the game, and it's off to find another.

            Speed Hiker is my latest - great for 5 minute sessions where you don't even care if you have to put the phone down midway though a game. There is no pause in a online game, dear wife.
          • by cduffy (652)

            I've been playing Aralon on my Xoom lately and I love it.

            Bloody shame it's Amazon-exclusive; My first experience with their "app store" left me utterly unwilling to have any further part in it (Log into Amazon every so often to keep playing things I've purchased? Not going to happen), nor to pirate it, so that leaves me waiting for the developer to release on Google Play.

    • by vlm (69642)

      If the free version doesn't have enough functionality that a typical user would keep it around

      Thats going to be pretty arbitrary and require lots of human effort... maybe if "the law" was something like 90% of the source code functions in your app collection must be unique or something like that? This makes life easy on the mighty GOOG also, because that could be automated. There would be issues with series like "Age of Conquest" which is basically Risk(tm)(c)(rm) where you pay per map by purchasing another app, the only difference being the new map. So that would have to be re-engineered into on

      • Re:A good start (Score:4, Insightful)

        by oakgrove (845019) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @05:08PM (#40848281)

        If the free version doesn't have enough functionality that a typical user would keep it around

        Thats going to be pretty arbitrary and require lots of human effort...

        I know this might go over the edge of the creepy factor for some people but maybe if there was a way to track frequency of use of an app and show the percentage of time the app was uninstalled within a week or something. Those stats would be very useful in gauging an app's quality in addition to the star and download numbers we have now.

        • by vlm (69642)

          How about the pulldown notify screen has a list of running apps and you rate them? Making the effort of going to the store and finding the app and then staring it simpler... Or the screen where you "tap hold" and can re-arrange icons and/or drop them in the trashcan has stars in addition to ye olde trashcan

          • How about the pulldown notify screen has a list of running apps and you rate them? Making the effort of going to the store and finding the app and then staring it simpler... Or the screen where you "tap hold" and can re-arrange icons and/or drop them in the trashcan has stars in addition to ye olde trashcan

            Those are really sweet ideas, which means they will never happen. Ever. Eh-vahr. :)

        • by CNTOAGN (1111159)
          Someone else mentioned that it would be nice if apps gave justifications for their various access rights - like "full internet access" - this would be a perfectly good reason, and it would be pretty cool if all apps would tell you, when you are installing - "this app uses internet access to send which functions get used, if it is uninstalled, and the ability to rate the app - no personal information sent."

          Of course a baked in analytics service for all apps, that could be disabled, would be pretty cool to

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          I know this might go over the edge of the creepy factor for some people but maybe if there was a way to track frequency of use of an app and show the percentage of time the app was uninstalled within a week or something. Those stats would be very useful in gauging an app's quality in addition to the star and download numbers we have now.

          That happens right now actually. Well, not the uninstall part, but the usage part. First, if the app has ads in it, it's easy because of the analytics. And when they use AdM

    • by idji (984038)
      all this stuff reminds me of 15 years ago when websites were simulating Win95 popups. That got cleaned up too.
      • all this stuff reminds me of 15 years ago when websites were simulating Win95 popups. That got cleaned up too.

        I know. It was really sweet when an "XP alert dialog" popped on the Win7 machine of a coworker the other day. :>

        </snark>

  • If they would make Angry Birds move that damned ad out of the way, I'd be able to stop disconnecting from the network before playing.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      You could just cough up the measly 99cents.
      Seems like far less effort than disconnecting.

      • by bbbaldie (935205)
        That wasn't an option the last time I checked. No paid ad-free Angry Birds. :-(
        • by BillX (307153)

          Depending on Android version / distributor (this may be more of a thing enabled in unofficial builds, e.g. cyanogenmod), you may have the option to revoke individual permissions on a per-permission and per-app basis. Revoke its 'Internet' permission and you're good to go. Worked for Angry Birds last time I checked (with auto-updates disabled since then), however, it's possible they've added a workaround for this (e.g. force crash if certain permissions revoked).

          • Depending on Android version / distributor (this may be more of a thing enabled in unofficial builds, e.g. cyanogenmod), you may have the option to revoke individual permissions on a per-permission and per-app basis. Revoke its 'Internet' permission and you're good to go. Worked for Angry Birds last time I checked (with auto-updates disabled since then), however, it's possible they've added a workaround for this (e.g. force crash if certain permissions revoked).

            I can see "them" caching ads, or bundling them with the install, as a punishment to those pesky jerks who try to block ads with all of those nefarious means available. :)

            </friendlysnark>

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          I have the original, seasons and space all paid for and ad free. Not sure when you checked but it has been this way for years at least.

    • Angry birds is the reason I installed an ad blocker... I'm all for ad supported free stuff, but not when the ad actually gets in the way.

  • Oh Mighty GOOG, your lowly human followers beseech you to create an app store for windows much like your mighty holiness has created for your son, Android.

    K thx bye (aka amen)

    P.S. and osx and linux app stores too if its not too much trouble, your mighty holiness.

    • Oh Mighty GOOG, your lowly human followers beseech you to create an app store for windows much like your mighty holiness has created for your son, Android.

      K thx bye (aka amen)

      P.S. and osx and linux app stores too if its not too much trouble, your mighty holiness.

      Well, you've got Chrome browser (including Native Client and other desktop-app-enabling functionality) + Chrome Web Store. That's probably as close as you are likely to get.

  • by Qwavel (733416) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:53PM (#40848081)

    I'm sure this will be welcomed by (most users and developers alike.

    However, the more control they exercise, the more danger that they will abuse it (e.g. a carrier partner asks Google to get rid of an app that acts as an SMS gateway, so users don't need to pay for carriers' SMS package).

    I believe that the key to keeping this sort of abuse under control (other then clear rules) is for Google to specify which rule was broken for every app that gets rejected.

    CommonsGuy wrote a good post about this (no, I'm not him):
    http://commonsware.com/blog/2012/02/23/think-about-principles.html [commonsware.com]

  • by DickBreath (207180) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @05:00PM (#40848155) Homepage
    I noticed in Jelly Bean that a user can find out what app put spam in the notification bar. The user can then revoke the app's ability to ever put any more notifications into the notification bar.

    Let's take that further. In Settings, Manage Applications, how about letting me manage the actual permissions that an app gets?

    So even if a Flashlight app declares in the manifest both Internet Access and Abuse My Personal Contacts permissions, I can simply deny the app any subset of those permissions. This would go a very long way toward eliminating the worst abuses we are seeing. After all, why does a Flashlight app need the Abuse My Personal Contacts permission?
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      There are many alternative android distributions that do just that. Cyanogenmod is one.

      Unfortunately many apps just crash if they can't get access to the resources they expect. There is another solution and that is applications that lie to the apps. You need root do to that, but it is very handy.

      • I've yet to have apps crash on me personally, which is odd because i usually have horrid luck.
        I almost always deny apps internet access, because fuck, a flashlight app doesn't need to connect to the internet.
        It just needs to be a damn flashlight.
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Why not just use a flashlight that does not ask for that?

          Torch would be one such well behaved app.

          • Part of the problem is that there is no sane way to discover this app.
            For example, I wanted a calculator app which diddn't request stupid permissions.
            The only way to do this was to go down the list, click install - for every app.

            Because this is hard and slow, even technically adept users are not likely to always do this.
            So the apps that don't request excess permissions don't get found and used preferentially over those that do.
            So the permission list tends to expand, as publishers are not penalised for it.

            If

          • Why not just use a flashlight that does not ask for that?

            Torch would be one such well behaved app.

            Amen. Too bad it's not compatible with my damn Infuse. ;)

    • by vlm (69642)

      After all, why does a Flashlight app need the Abuse My Personal Contacts permission?

      This is probably asking too much, or over thinking it, but I would have it fail gracefully and not let the app know, or feed it misinformation.
      For example "Abuse My Personal Contacts" should be able to lie and tell it I have no contacts OR lie and tell it my only personal contacts are "abuse@ftc.gov" or "spamreport@gmail" or purely randomized addresses or whatever.

      You can fail "Abuse My Internet Access" by returning that the inet is down, but its just as funny to let it silently drop all traffic.

      Really ther

      • After all, why does a Flashlight app need the Abuse My Personal Contacts permission?

        This is probably asking too much, or over thinking it, but I would have it fail gracefully and not let the app know, or feed it misinformation.
        For example "Abuse My Personal Contacts" should be able to lie and tell it I have no contacts OR lie and tell it my only personal contacts are "abuse@ftc.gov" or "spamreport@gmail" or purely randomized addresses or whatever.

        You can fail "Abuse My Internet Access" by returning that the inet is down, but its just as funny to let it silently drop all traffic.

        Really there's four options:
        1) Tell it the user told it to F off, in which case the spam app will pester the user to re-enable, so its probably useless
        2) Tell it the service is down (sorry, just bad luck we have no inet access right now, or the user has zero contacts in their book) in which case the app Might pester the user, so its less useful
        3) Tell it the service is up and silently drop or randomize everything. This would probably work pretty well most of the time. Suuuuuure, app, you've just posted my score or result or whatever on FB or twitter or spammed all the email addresses in my contacts, yeah app you just trust me that it wasn't all just dropped without being sent
        4) Let the app have its way with the user, do whatever it wants

        4a. Add on to 4.) above - add a 30-second delay to "play" or "use" the app if it can't fully access whatever resources it desires. That'll punish the ADHD/I-want-it-nows into buying apps and/or enabling ads to get to the "fun" of the app 5 seconds faster. Cuz, ya know, 5 seconds is critical to happiness. :)

        I'm not being an ass. I'm so serious about that. It's sad, but hey.. I have a similar opinion about having automobiles set up in the future to be remotely shut down if the user is speeding (after gi

      • by cynyr (703126)

        for the inet stuff root your phone and install droidwall in whitelist mode.

    • by Daetrin (576516)
      I haven't installed Pandora on my Nexus 7 because of the permissions they want. They have a long detailed explanation of why they say they need to access my contacts list for, but i don't actually want to do any of the things they say the need the info for, and they're already under investigation for sharing personal info with other companies.

      I still have the last version of Pandora from before they added Personal Contacts to the permissions installed on my phone, and i'm perfectly happy with how that wor
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Cyanogenmod or numerous apps that require root can do just that.

      • by vlueboy (1799360)

        I still have the last version of Pandora from before they added Personal Contacts to the permissions installed on my phone

        Yet another reason to always deny updates. The important things will just update themselves anyway (like the infamous and confirmation-less Market -> Google Play rename) but you can keep the latest Facebook address-wipe "feature" from affecting your phone.

        What would be better is some tool to keep the OS services from spamming you. I keep clearing the "You have 20 updates waiting", notification only to see it again a few times a day. While we're at that, how about google stops asking me for a cellphone n

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      it's possible google didn't implement it like that to avoid stepping on j2me security model turf(which is exactly like you and many others have asked for, even if it was fucked uppedly implemented in most phones).

      however its more likely they were just lazy.

    • I'm not sure about jelly bean.. but my older android phone has all sorts of crapware put on by the carrier, that I cannot uninstall I have a notification every single day about updates being available for them.. I have never used them, see lots of comments about the update causing problems, and no way to uninstall.. can I at least tell it to stop checking for updates?

      • I'm not sure about jelly bean.. but my older android phone has all sorts of crapware put on by the carrier, that I cannot uninstall I have a notification every single day about updates being available for them.. I have never used them, see lots of comments about the update causing problems, and no way to uninstall.. can I at least tell it to stop checking for updates?

        If you remount /system as readwrite (requires root) you can just uninstall the bundled apps in the usual way.

  • by DickBreath (207180) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @05:06PM (#40848245) Homepage
    Similar to Apple, Google should introduce a program for developers who wish to pay to have their app certified. The app would earn some kind of certification that Google has inspected the app, it meets various technical (not necessarily style) guidelines. Then the app is displayed in the store with a branded trademarked logo indicating it is certified.

    Google could also have multiple levels of certification like Silver, Gold, Rhodium, etc.

    ----
    we will meet in Red 3 at the hour of scampering
    • by oakgrove (845019)
      Oh the bitching and moaning that would ensue over the certified "haves" and "have nots". Sounds like a good opportunity for a third party though.
      • by Microlith (54737)

        Please, it's not a bad idea and it's Google's store anyway. Following his thought, anyone who objected could either release without certification or not release in the store at all.

    • Similar to Apple, Google should introduce a program for developers who wish to pay to have their app certified. The app would earn some kind of certification that Google has inspected the app, it meets various technical (not necessarily style) guidelines. Then the app is displayed in the store with a branded trademarked logo indicating it is certified.

      Google could also have multiple levels of certification like Silver, Gold, Rhodium, etc.

      Don't forget Hydrogen - the cheap one with no logo to which the developer can say, "Hey! Look at me! I paid for a certification!"

      Hey, I'm not kidding. I can see the dollars a'flowing now.

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @05:12PM (#40848347)

    and they can't request personal information to grant full app function.

    Yeah! No muscling in on Google's turf! [slashdot.org]

  • "Google clamps down on Spam, Intrusive Ads In Apps from competitors

    • "Google clamps down on Spam, Intrusive Ads In Apps from competitors

      I can't think of any Google applications on Android that even use ads...

      In any case, I'm happy to see all the apps that include AirPush get banned from Google Play - I have no time for any developer who thinks its a good idea (especially since they never warn you that they are using AirPush when you install the app).

  • Well, that sucks. I live in an area (China) where Google does not allow any payments AT ALL. That's right, I can't buy anything even if I want to. I even tried using a VPN to come from America - nope, Google looks at your SIM card. China Unicom, no dice. Pleco, an excellent Chinese dictionary application, cleverly got around this by offering a web page where you could buy a registration number outside the app. See, most of their customers are in China, obviously. Now that's in ruins. Good job, Googl
  • I am surprised the Android doesn't limit creation of shortcuts or icons external to the app, to an API? This API would automatically notify the user on trigger. If there is one, how are these apps successfully getting around it? Wouldn't this be something that Google could detect before listing an app?

    Note, I am not an Android developer, so excuse any ignorance here.

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