Google Takes Action to Protect Kids in the Play Store

Google has taken a renewed interested in user privacy and safety this year. At Google I/O, the company's annual developer conference, the search giant outlined a number of changes that developers will need to address as they update their apps for Android Q. Now, Google is moving further along this path with a focus on protecting children from certain types of apps and in-app content in the Play Store.  

Google rightly points out that the word "children" can and does mean different things as you move from one country or culture to the next. That's why Google fine-tuned the way it defines children. Developers that opt specifically to make apps for kids will need to fully participate in the Designed for Families program. It is in this program that Google is asking developers to take a new approach and walk a finer, cleaner line. 

At a high-level, Google is now asking developers to police adult content, drug and alcohol use, and hate speech not only within their apps but in the ads that appear within their apps. Trickery and sleight of hand will not be tolerated. 

Apps that falsely say they are for kids but contain adult content, for example, will draw Google's ire. The same is true of apps that: glamorize the use of alcohol, tobacco, or controlled substances; apps that include real or simulated gambling; apps that include violence, gore, and other shocking content; apps that provide dating, sexual, or marital services to kids; and apps that show mature ads to kids. Loot boxes are a no-no unless they clearly reveal the odds of winning the contents.

Developers whose apps cross these lines may see their app removed from the Play Store or, worse, see their account suspended. 

Google points out that developers will need to accurately rate their apps for children, disclose any sort of data collection policies in plain language, and ensure proper use of APIs and SDKs. In other words, apps that attempt to circumvent the rules by futzing with the underlying APIs or SDKs could land the developer(s) in the hot seat. Apps that solely target kids cannot contain any APIs or SDKs that aren't expressly approved for kids under the guidelines of the Designed for Families program. 

Augmented reality apps have their own ruleset. For example, such apps must now include safety warnings upon the initial launch of the AR environment. Moreover, the warnings need to contain specific language regarding parental supervision and the awareness of real-world hazards. In other words, developers have to remind kids to clear the room before they go AR kung-fu. 

It goes without saying that Google expects developers to follow all relevant local laws. 

Many of the policies are spelled out here


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