Developer Program Policy: March 31, 2021 announcement

We're updating the following policies. All new and existing apps will receive a grace period of at least 30 days from March 31, 2021 (unless otherwise stated) to comply with the following changes:

Package Visibility - effective Summer 2021

The inventory of installed apps queried from a device are regarded as personal and sensitive user data subject to the Personal and Sensitive Information policy,  and the following requirements:

Apps that have a core purpose to launch, search, or interoperate with other apps on the device, may obtain scope-appropriate visibility to other installed apps on the device as outlined below:

  • Broad app visibility: Broad visibility is the capability of an app to have extensive (or “broad”) visibility of the installed apps (“packages”) on a device.
    • For apps targeting API level 30 or later, broad visibility to installed apps via the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission is restricted to specific use cases where awareness of and/or interoperability with any and all apps on the device are required for the app to function. 
    • Use of alternative methods to approximate the broad visibility level associated with QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission are also restricted to user-facing core app functionality and interoperability with any apps discovered via this method.
    • Please see this Help Center article for allowable use cases for the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission.
  • Limited app visibility: Limited visibility is when an app minimizes access to data by querying for specific apps using more targeted (instead of “broad”) methods (e.g. querying for specific apps that satisfy your app’s manifest declaration). You may use this method to query for apps in cases where your app has policy compliant interoperability, or management of these apps. 
  • Visibility to the inventory of installed apps on a device must be directly related to the core purpose or core functionality that users access within your app. 

App inventory data queried from Play-distributed apps may never be sold nor shared for analytics or ads monetization purposes.

News - effective May 5, 2021

An app that declares itself as a "News" app in the Google Play console (“News apps”) must meet all of the following requirements.

News apps that require a user to purchase a membership must provide an in-app content preview for users prior to purchase. 

News apps MUST:

  • provide ownership information about the news publisher and its contributors including, but not limited to, the official website for the news published in your app, valid and verifiable contact information, and the original publisher of each article, and 
  • have a dedicated website or in-app page that is clearly labelled as containing contact information, is easy to find (e.g., linked at the bottom of the home page or in the site navigation bar), and provides valid contact information for the news publisher, including at least a contact email address and phone number. 

Please note that links to social media accounts are not sufficient forms of publisher contact information.  Additionally, apps that contain primarily user generated content (e.g., social media apps) should not declare themselves as News apps.

News apps MUST NOT:

  • contain significant spelling & or grammatical errors,
  • contain only static content (e.g., content that is several months old), and 
  • have affiliate marketing or ad revenue as its primary purpose. 

Please note that News apps may use ads and other forms of marketing to monetize as long as the app’s primary purpose isn’t to sell products and services or generate advertising revenue. 

News apps that aggregate content from different publishing sources must be transparent about the publishing source of the content in the app and each of the sources must meet News policy requirements.
 

Real-Money Gambling, Games, and Contests - effective May 5, 2021

We allow real-money gambling apps, ads related to real-money gambling, loyalty programs with gamified outcomes, and daily fantasy sports apps that meet certain requirements.

Gambling Apps

Subject to restrictions and compliance with all Google Play policies, we allow apps that enable or facilitate online gambling in the following countries in the table below as long as the Developer completes the application process for gambling apps being distributed on Google Play, is an approved governmental operator and/or is registered as a licensed operator with the appropriate governmental gambling authority in the specified country, and provides a valid operating license in the specified country for the type of online gambling product they want to offer. 

We only allow valid licensed or authorized gambling apps that have the following types of online gambling products (please consult the table below for the specific types of gambling products allowed in each country):

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting
  • Horse Racing (where regulated and licensed separately from Sports Betting)
  • Lotteries
  • Daily Fantasy Sports

Australia

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Sports Betting (including Daily Fantasy Sports where legal)
  • Lotteries

Belgium

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

Brazil

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Sports Betting (Horse racing only)
  • Lotteries (limited to approved apps published by Caixa Economica Federal)

Canada

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games (governmental operators only)
  • Sports Betting (governmental operators only)
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

Colombia

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

Denmark

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting (including Daily Fantasy Sports where legal)
  • Lotteries

Finland

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games (governmental operators only)
  • Sports Betting (governmental operators only)
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

France

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting
  • Horse Racing (where regulated and licensed separately from Sports Betting)
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

Germany

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Sports Betting
  • Horse Racing (where regulated and licensed separately from Sports Betting)
  • Lotteries (governmental operators or affiliated contracted operators only)

Ireland

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting
  • Lotteries (governmental or charitable operators only)

Japan

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Sports Betting (horse racing, motorboat racing, bicycle racing, auto-bicycle racing, and soccer lottery by governmental operators only)
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

Mexico

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting
  • Lotteries
  • Daily Fantasy Sports

New Zealand

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Sports Betting (governmental operators only)
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

Norway

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting (governmental operators only)
  • Lotteries

Romania

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

Spain

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting (including Daily Fantasy Sports where legal)
  • Horse Racing (where regulated and licensed separately from Sports Betting)
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

Sweden

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting
  • Lotteries (governmental operators only)

United Kingdom

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed:

  • Online Casino games
  • Sports Betting (including Daily Fantasy Sports where legal)
  • Lotteries

United States

Summary Details
Allowed with limitations

Subject to the application and licensing requirements in this “Gambling Apps” section, apps with the following types of gambling products are allowed in certain states where legal and appropriately licensed:

  • Online Casino games 
  • Sports Betting 
  • Horse Racing (where regulated and licensed separately from Sports Betting) 
  • Lotteries 

Please note that if a state or gambling product for a state is not available on the application form, Google Play does not permit distribution at this time.

Depending on the state, daily fantasy sports may be regulated as gambling in the U.S, and all daily fantasy sports apps published in the United States are subject to the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) Apps requirements below.

Eligible apps must meet the following requirements:

  • Developer must successfully complete the application process in order to distribute the app on Play;
  • App must comply with all applicable laws and industry standards for each country in which it is distributed;
  • Developer must have a valid gambling license for each country or state/territory in which the app is distributed;
  • Developer must not offer a type of gambling product that exceeds the scope of its gambling license;
  • App must prevent under-age users from using the app;
  • App must prevent access and use from countries, states/territories, or the geographic areas not covered by the developer-provided gambling license;
  • App must NOT be purchasable as a paid app on Google Play, nor use Google Play In-app Billing;
  • App must be free to download and install from the Store;
  • App must be rated AO (Adult Only) or IARC equivalent; and
  • App and its app listing must clearly display information about responsible gambling.

Gamified Loyalty Programs

Where permitted by law and not subject to additional gambling or gaming licensing requirements, we allow loyalty programs that reward users with real world prizes or monetary equivalent, subject to the following Play Store eligibility requirements:

For all apps (games and non-games):

  • Loyalty program benefits, perks, or rewards must be clearly supplementary and subordinate to any qualifying monetary transaction within the app (where the qualifying monetary transaction must be a genuine separate transaction to provide goods or services independent of the loyalty program) and may not be subject to purchase nor tied to any mode of exchange otherwise in violation of the Real-Money Gambling, Games, and Contests policy restrictions.
    • For example, no portion of the qualifying monetary transaction may represent a fee or wager to participate in the loyalty program, and the qualifying monetary transaction must not result in the purchase of goods or services above its usual price.

For Game apps:

  • Loyalty points or rewards with benefits, perks or rewards associated with a qualifying monetary transaction may only be awarded and redeemed on a fixed ratio basis, where the ratio is documented conspicuously in the app and also within the publicly available official rules for the program, and the earning of benefits or redemptive value may not be wagered, awarded or exponentiated by game performance or chance-based outcomes.

For non-Game apps:

  • Loyalty points or rewards may be tied to a contest or chance based outcomes if they fulfill the requirements noted below. Loyalty programs with benefits, perks or rewards associated with a qualifying monetary transaction must:
    • Publish official rules for the program within the app.
    • For programs involving variable, chance-based, or randomized reward systems: disclose within the official terms for the program 1) the odds for any reward programs which use fixed odds to determine rewards and 2) the selection method (e.g. variables used to determine the reward) for all other such programs.
    • Specify a fixed number of winners, fixed entry deadline, and prize award date, per promotion, within the official terms of a program offering drawings, sweepstakes, or other similar style promotions.
    • Document any fixed ratio for loyalty point or loyalty reward accrual and redemption conspicuously in the app and also within the official terms of the program.
Type of app with Loyalty program Loyalty gamification and variable rewards Loyalty rewards based upon a fixed ratio/schedule Terms and Conditions of loyalty program required T&Cs must disclose odds or selection method of any chance based loyalty program
Game Not Allowed Allowed Required N/A (Game apps not allowed to have chance based elements in loyalty programs)
Non-Game Allowed Allowed Required Required

 

Ads for Gambling or Real-Money Games, Contests, and Tournaments within Play-distributed Apps

We allow apps that have ads which promote gambling, real-money games, contests, and tournaments if they meet the following requirements:

  1. App and ad (including advertisers) must comply with all applicable laws and industry standards for any location where the ad is displayed;
  2. Ad must meet all applicable local ad licensing requirements for all gambling-related products and services being promoted;
  3. App must not display a gambling ad to individuals known to be under the age of 18;
  4. App must not be enrolled in the Designed for Families program;
  5. App must not target individuals under the age of 18;
  6. If advertising a Gambling App (as defined above), the ad must clearly display information about responsible gambling on its landing page, the advertised app listing itself or within the app;
  7. App must not provide simulated gambling content (e.g. social casino apps; apps with virtual slot machines);
  8. App must not provide gambling or real money game, lottery, or tournament support or companion functionality (e.g. functionality that assists with wagering, payouts, sports score/odds/performance tracking, or management of participation funds);
  9. App content must not promote or direct users to gambling or real money games, lotteries, or tournament services

Only apps that meet all of these requirements in the section listed may include ads for gambling or real money games, lotteries, or tournaments. Accepted Gambling Apps (as defined above), or accepted Daily Fantasy Sports Apps (as defined below) which meet requirements 1-6 above, may include ads for gambling or real money games, lotteries, or tournaments.

Malware and Stalkerware - effective May 5, 2021

Malware

Our Malware policy is simple, the Android ecosystem including the Google Play Store, and user devices should be free from malicious behaviors (for example, malware). Through this fundamental principle we strive to provide a safe Android ecosystem for our users and their Android devices.

Malware is any code that could put a user, a user's data, or a device at risk. Malware includes, but is not limited to, Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs), binaries, or framework modifications, consisting of categories such as trojans, phishing, and spyware apps, and we are continuously updating and adding new categories.

Though varied in type and capabilities, malware usually has one of the following objectives:

  • Compromise the integrity of the user's device.
  • Gain control over a user's device.
  • Enable remote-controlled operations for an attacker to access, use, or otherwise exploit an infected device.
  • Transmit personal data or credentials off the device without adequate disclosure and consent.
  • Disseminate spam or commands from the infected device to affect other devices or networks.
  • Defraud the user.

An app, binary, or framework modification can be potentially harmful, and therefore can generate malicious behavior, even if it wasn't intended to be harmful. This is because apps, binaries, or framework modifications can function differently depending on a variety of variables. Therefore, what is harmful to one Android device might not pose a risk at all to another Android device. For example, a device running the latest version of Android is not affected by harmful apps which use deprecated APIs to perform malicious behavior but a device that is still running a very early version of Android might be at risk. Apps, binaries, or framework modifications are flagged as malware or PHA if they clearly pose a risk to some or all Android devices and users.

The malware categories, below, reflect our foundational belief that users should understand how their device is being leveraged and promote a secure ecosystem that enables robust innovation and a trusted user experience.

 

Stalkerware

Code that collects and/or transmits personal or sensitive user data from a device without adequate notice or consent and doesn't display a persistent notification that this is happening.

Stalkerware apps target device users by monitoring personal or sensitive user data, and transmitting or making this data accessible to third parties. 

Apps exclusively designed and marketed for parents to track their children or enterprise management, provided they fully comply with the requirements described below are the only acceptable surveillance apps. These apps cannot be used to track anyone else (a spouse, for example) even with their knowledge and permission, regardless if persistent notification is displayed.

Non-stalkerware apps distributed on the Play Store which monitor or track a user's behavior on a device must minimally comply with these requirements:

  • Apps must not present themselves as a spying or secret surveillance solution.
  • Apps must not hide or cloak tracking behavior or attempt to mislead users about such functionality.
  • Apps must present users with a persistent notification at all times when the app is running and a unique icon that clearly identifies the app.
  • Apps and app listings on Google Play must not provide any means to activate or access functionality that violate these terms, such as linking to a non-compliant APK hosted outside Google Play.
  • You are solely responsible for determining the legality of your app in its targeted locale. Apps determined to be unlawful in locations where they are published will be removed.

Families Policy Requirements - effective May 5, 2021

If one of the target audiences for your app is children, you must comply with the following requirements. Failure to satisfy these requirements may result in app removal or suspension. 

  1. App content: Your app’s content that is accessible to children must be appropriate for children. 
  2. App Functionality: Your app must not merely provide a webview of a website or have a primary purpose of driving affiliate traffic to a website, regardless of ownership of the website. 
We are constantly exploring ways to enable new experiences for kids app developers. If you are interested in joining our Trusted Web App pilot for education apps, please submit your interest here.

All Files Access Permission- effective May 5, 2021

We updated the All Files Access Permission policy for apps on devices running Android 11+ so that users have more access control over their device storage.

Sexual Content and Profanity - effective May 5, 2021

Update to example of a common violation:

  • Apps that degrade or objectify people, such as apps that claim to undress people or see through clothing, even if labelled as prank or entertainment apps.   

Misleading Claims - effective May 5, 2021

Updated example of a common violation:

  • Demonstrably deceptive or false content that may interfere with voting processes.

User Data - effective May 5, 2021

If your app handles sensitive user data, then you must:

  • Post a privacy policy in both the designated field in the Play Console and within the app itself. The privacy policy must, together with any in-app disclosures, comprehensively disclose how your app accesses, collects, uses, and shares user data. Your privacy policy must disclose the types of personal and sensitive data your app accesses, collects, uses, and shares; and any parties with which any personal or sensitive user data is shared.

Ads and Monetization - effective May 5, 2021

New example added to list of common violations:

  • Ads that do not provide a user with a way to a exit the ad experience after five (5) seconds as depicted in the example below:

Payments - previously announced, visit link for more info

Note: To view timelines and frequently asked questions regarding this policy, please visit our Help Center.

COVID-19 Apps - previously announced, visit link for more info

We clarified requirements for COVID-19 status apps.

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