This piece will provide a brief account of some of these policies, consequences of non-compliance, and resources to help developers ensure they are on the right track.
With over 3.48 million apps and over a billion users as of 2021, the popularity of the Google Play Store as a platform for the distribution, promotion, and sale of Android apps is undeniable. Like any platform of this scale, it comes with its own rules, regulations, procedures, and policies with which developers must comply. The object of these policies is to provide us with Apps and games that are both safe and functional.
To cut a long story short: Yes, the rules are backed by enforcement measures, and No, they are not recommendatory “best practices”.
Overview of some important Google Play Developer Policies
Apart from the Developer Distribution Agreement, new and existing Apps must also comply with all other relevant Google Play Policies. Here is a short video. If your app is aimed at children as its user base,, it will need to comply with special policies like the Family Policy requirements. Let’s take a look at some of these policies. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list but is meant to be illustrative instead. Please click here for more information.
- Restricted Content: In addition to complying with local laws, your App’s content must be appropriate for the Google PlayStore. This consists of the following:
- Child Endangerment: content that sexualises minors, contains adult themes like excessive violence, depicts harmful and dangerous activities, or promotes negative body or self-image, is not permitted on the Google PlayStore.
- Inappropriate Content: To ensure the safety of users on the platform, Google Play forbids sexual content or profanity (including pornography), hate speech, violence, terrorist content, sensitive events, bullying and harassment, dangerous products (sale of explosives, firearms, ammunition, or certain firearms accessories), or the sale of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol.
To learn more about Restricted Content, click here.
- Intellectual Property (IP): Apps or developer accounts that infringe on the IP rights of others (including trademark, copyright, patent, trade secret, and other proprietary rights) are not allowed. An example of a common violation is using artwork or images from comic books, cartoons, movies, music videos, or television. Your best bet is to use original work exclusively.
- Privacy, Deception and Device Abuse: In order to protect user privacy and provide a safe and secure platform, Google requires the following:
- Permissions: Apps are allowed to only request permissions that are necessary to implement current features or services in the App that are promoted in their Google PlayStore listing. Apps must request permissions to access data in context (via incremental requests), use data for purposes for which consent was given, and obtain consent again in case of additional usage.
To learn more about the policy on Privacy, Deception, and Device Abuse, click here.
- Families: When the target audience of an app is children and families, developers must ensure (prior to submission) that their App’s content is appropriate and complies with relevant laws. The Target Audience and Content needs to be declared upfront. In addition, Google requires compliance to the following:
- Designed for Families Program: If your App is designed for everyone, including families and children, you can participate in this program, provided your app complies with the Families Policy and satisfies the eligibility requirements listed here.
- Families Ads Program: When the target audience of an app is only children, the app must use ad SDKs that have self-certified compliance with Google Play policies, including the Ad SDK certification requirements. If the target audience for your app includes both children and older users, you must implement age screening measures and make sure that ads shown to children come exclusively from one of these self-certified ad SDKs.
- US Laws Compliance: Your App must comply with US Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), EU General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) and any other applicable laws or regulations. Among other things, COPPA requires verifiable parental/ guardian consent to be obtained if any personal data (eg. phone number, email address, address etc.) is being collected from children. This link for the FTC website suggests a 6-Step plan to check if your business (or App in this case) is in compliance with the COPPA rule.
**Important Note**: Google updates its policies periodically, and notifies developers of its changes and clarifications. Developers must stay clued into the changes to Google’s Policies and ensure their App continues to remain compliant. Check out this Summary of Changes to determine your next steps.
The Google Play policies are aimed at ensuring user safety and an overall positive user experience. If this consideration alone is not sufficient, here’s what could follow for Apps that are in violation:
- Rejection of a new App or App update
- Removal of the App
- Suspension of the App (counts as a strike against the good standing of your developer account)
- Limited visibility (discoverability) of the App on the Google PlayStore
- Termination of the developer account
To learn more about the Enforcement Process, click here.
Need Help Implementing Google’s Policies?
In addition to the resources provided above, below is a collection of helpful links to provide you with the tools to ensure your App is getting it right:
- Contact Play Console Help
- Google Play Academy
- Google Developers Blog
- Chromebook App Hub - Developer Interest Form
- Google Play Medium
- Android Developers on YouTube
- Android Developers (@AndroidDev) / Twitter
- Google Play Apps & Games (@GooglePlayDev) / Twitter
Karleen De Mello, Policy & Legal Consultant, EkStep Foundation
Hita Kumar, Program Manager - Policy & Partnerships, EkStep Foundation