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Google Play Apps to Be Classified by the International Age Rating Coalition

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Google Play Apps to Be Classified by the International Age Rating Coalition

Following its announcement in March of an upcoming age-based rating system for Google Play due in May, the Mountain View giant has now detailed the new system.

The firm is tying up with a coalition of ratings bodies from across the world, the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), to provide an automated process of age-based ratings. Developers will have to fill in a questionnaire, which will then be reviewed by IARC members from the separate boards across the world, such as ESRB in the US, and Pegi in Europe.

Instead of its of its traditional low/medium/high maturity classifications, Google's tie-up with IARC will provide age-based ratings specific to each region. If a particular region does not fall under any of the boards under the coalition, then a generic rating will be given. Google says that this move is to let parents reassure that the apps are properly labelled by the experts rather than relying on what the developers self-certify for their apps.

The International Age Rating Coalition, which was found two years ago, is a five-member panel comprising the five major age classification boards across the world - The Australian Classification Board, Classifcacao Indicativa for Brazil, The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for North America, Pan European Game Information (Pegi) for the European Region, and Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (Germany).

The coalition, instead of giving a single global rating for each app, will rate them according to the local laws and cultural sensitivities of the country where the user's account is based. Furthermore, if one or more bodies are not able to give rate an app, that app will not be available to download in those countries.

As for developers, they would simply have to fill a questionnaire detailing what type of content the app includes and how it functions. The process thereafter is automated, and ratings will be assigned soon after the questionnaire is submitted. However, the coalition would perform manual checks on popular apps and on those apps which have received user complaints.

Also, developers of apps that don't include content of their own, such as calendars, can complete the questionnaire process within a minute, the coalition's chairwoman Patricia Vance told the BBC.

"The volume of apps in a storefront like Google Play is just enormous... We can't follow the same [hands-on] approach that we do for boxed games, but we don't have to make the process as robust as there's no physical product here... If a physical product is mis-rated that's a logistical nightmare as you have to pull the boxes back from the shops and reprint them... With apps you can just say, 'That age seven rating should have been a 12,' and with a snap of the finger, reprogramme it," said PEGI's Communication Manager Dirk Bosmans.

It is worth mentioning that IARC also regulates Mozilla's Firefox Marketplace. It also said that companies like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will soon join them.

Google last month announced a new Google Play programme called Designed for Families that will allow developers to get an additional "family-friendly" rating for apps the whole family can enjoy together. More on this, including a Kids section of the store, is expected to be announced at Google I/O 2015, which kicks off on Thursday.

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