Developer policies on Google Play have been updated to impose a ban on apps that mine cryptocurrency. The new move comes weeks after Apple updated its App Store Review Guidelines with a new section to restrict cryptocurrency mining apps. The updated developer policies on the Play store also prohibits several other app categories, including the ones that cover apps with child endanger content and disruptive ads. Google Play saw 36 billion app downloads in the first half of this year, as per a recent Sensor Tower report. Also, Android platform has over two billion monthly active users - of which, almost each user access Google Play to download new apps.
As per the updated developer policies, Google has restricted all the apps on the Play store that mine cryptocurrency on devices. The company has, however, permitted apps that "remotely manage the mining of cryptocurrency". This looks similar to the updated App Store Review Guidelines that included section 3.1.5 (b) to ban on-device cryptocurrency apps but not the ones in which the "mining is performed in the Cloud or otherwise off-device".
Earlier this year, Google banned Web extensions on the Chrome Web Store that were offering cryptocurrency mining. Opera also brought an anti-cryptocurrency mining feature on its Web browser to put the mining of cryptocurrencies on hold.
In addition to the ban of app supporting on-device cryptocurrency mining, the updated developer policies strictly restrict all the apps that include content that "sexualises minors". Apps that appear to target children but contain adult themes are also in the restricted list. Further, Google says that it will report to the appropriate authorities and delete the Google Accounts of those involved with the distribution of content with child sexual abuse imagery through any Play store-listed apps. "To ensure that Google Play remains a safe and respectful platform, we've created standards defining and prohibiting content that is harmful or inappropriate for our users," the updated policies state.
Google Play will now also restrict apps that promote hate speech, violence, self-harm, discrimination based on factors such as race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or any other characteristic. Similarly, the restriction applies to all the apps that depict or facilitate "gratuitous violence or other dangerous activities", including graphic depictions or descriptions of realistic violence or violent threats to any person or animal. Google also restricts apps that contain sexually explicit content, such as depictions of sex acts or sexually suggestive poses or promotional images of sex toys and depicts, describes, or encourages bestiality. Further, the common violation of the policies can be considered for the apps that promote escort services or other services "that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation".
To make the experience safer for users, Google Play also bans apps that facilitate the sale of explosives, firearms, ammunition, or certain firearm accessories. It also blocks apps that enable a firearm to simulate automatic fire or convert a firearm to automatic fire. In the same sense, apps that include instructions on the manufacturing of explosives, firearms, ammunition, and other weapons are now banned. Apps that are dealing in illegal activities such as the selling, growing, and manufacturing of illegal drugs as well as promoting the use of prescription drugs without a prescription are not allowed in the Play store. The restriction also applies to apps that collect user data without any explicit disclosure to users. "You must be transparent in how you handle user data (e.g., information provided by a user, collected about a user, and collected about a user's use of the app or device), including by disclosing the collection, use, and sharing of the data, and you must limit use of the data to the description in the disclosure," the company said.
Google has additionally blocked apps on the Play store that are of a repetitive nature. This means the apps that mimic or provide the experiences of an existing app on the Play store will no longer be available through the official channel on Android devices. Also, Google Play will remove apps "that are created by an automated tool, wizard service, or based on templates and submitted to Google Play by the operator of that service on behalf of other persons".
Developers who are set to begin their journey with Google Play should read the updated policies thoroughly before proceeding with their apps. The updated policies are available through Google's Developer Policy Center.