How we help keep Google Play safe for users and developers
With around 2 million apps available on Google Play, we are continually working on ways to weed out harmful apps and keep users, and developers, safe.
There are over 3 billion active Android devices across the globe and our users access apps via these devices. It is a top priority for us that the apps within the Google Play ecosystem deliver quality experiences which meet user needs, and that developers are able to navigate our policies with ease.
To do this, the Google Play and Trust & Safety teams perform user and developer research to identify new features and programs that benefit the ecosystem most. They then make adjustments to improve experiences that cause user frustration and developer friction.
What types of apps should not be found on Google Play?
As with all Google services, harmful content manifests in different ways. So, we design and update our policies and programs with this in mind to ensure that we can keep Google Play safe for everyone.
Operations Manager, James Black, has been with Google for over 12 years and has seen Google Play grow significantly since it was launched in 2012. “We are constantly updating our Google Play policies to stay ahead of changes in the market or new types of abuse, and to help make sure that content is age-appropriate.
“When we’re thinking about apps that do not belong on Google Play, a major focus is egregious content. Some examples of this would be hate speech, violence, or child endangerment. We take this very seriously and our approach to removing these apps and developers is aggressive.
"We want to uphold the trusted experience that users have come to expect from us, so we have robust processes in place for reporting suspected violations of intellectual property rights such as copyright and trademark. App impersonation also creates a confusing experience and potential security risk to Google Play users so our policies prohibit apps that attempt to impersonate others.
"We also work to reduce low-quality apps. Apps that don’t load properly, crash frequently, or provide little to no value to users, undermining the experience and trust in Google Play offerings. While we know that not all apps work perfectly all the time, we strive to ensure that apps on Google Play meet users’ needs and expectations.”
“We're committed to protecting user privacy. Apps that are deceptive, malicious, or intended to abuse or misuse any personal data, network, or device are strictly prohibited. We have heightened protections for personal and sensitive user data, like prohibiting developers from selling personal and sensitive user data, and requiring developers to limit the access, collection, use, and sharing of personal and sensitive user data acquired through the app to purposes reasonably expected by the user. And all developers must complete a clear and accurate Data safety section for every app detailing collection, use, and sharing of user data."
What do we do to keep users safe on Google Play?
As new market risks and technology evolve, we continue to invest in machine-learning detection, enhanced app review processes, and our Google Play's Developer Program Policies to stop apps with abusive or malicious content before anyone can install them.
"Human review plays an important role in content safety at Google overall, combined with our machine learning systems which together strengthen the way that we review apps.”
There are times when identifying this kind of content is simpler than others and it is a combination of automation and humans that helps us to find and remove harmful apps. Our automated systems help to filter out violations at scale. They also escalate apps under specific circumstances for human review such as when there have been signs of a potential policy violation but we want to have humans take a deeper look in order to make sure that the right decision is made.
“Human review plays an important role in content safety at Google overall, combined with our machine learning systems which together strengthen the way that we review apps. Automated classifiers constantly scan apps at scale to look for policy violations. This includes new apps, updates to existing apps, and apps that are already live on the Google Play store. These extensive review processes help to prevent harmful apps from getting into the store and find live apps that require updating as we launch new standards for user safety.”
How do we help developers to build safe apps?
One of the best ways to protect users from bad apps is to keep those apps off of Google Play in the first place. Our improved vetting mechanisms help to stop policy-violating app submissions before they are ever published to Google Play.
A part of this work includes requiring developers to follow high safety standards. “We encourage developers to create innovative app content but we also want our users to trust that they can go into Google Play and find what they are looking for safely,” says James “so, we work with developers to help them make sure that the quality of their apps is high, and that the information that people use to make a purchase decision, such as descriptions, screenshots and user reviews are genuine.”
We are committed to helping developers understand app safety and Google’s policies. As James explains, only a tiny fraction of apps are considered harmful, and most policy violations are not malicious. “By working directly with developers we can understand better where policies are unclear, and provide the relevant resources, including Play PolicyBytes videos, webinars, blog posts, and policy update communications.”
This collaboration helps to create safe apps from the start and is something that will continue to be a useful tool for content moderation in the future, notes Jacqueline Hart Play’s Director of Trusted Experiences, Developer Enablement.
“Through efforts like these, Google is working to build trust with both our consumer users and the millions of developers that partner with Google to make their businesses successful. We have teams of people dedicated to this work and we are committed to continuing to create an ecosystem that enables developers to provide trusted experiences through their apps.”
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