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02 November 2022

Keeping Google Play Safe with New Features and Programs

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Posted by Ron Aquino, Senior Director, Trust and Safety, Chrome, Android and Play

Google Play has been the launchpad for millions of developer businesses to connect with consumers around the world as we strive to deliver a safe place to find great apps and games. Our safety initiatives and policies are core ways that we create the trusted experience that users have come to expect. By responsibly evolving these features, policies, and programs, we’re able to help you safely launch new experiences to more than 2.5 billion users in 190 countries around the world.

Today, we’re sharing a number of new features and programs to better partner with you and continue making Google Play a safe platform for everyone.

Protecting your business and your users from risky, unknown traffic

We launched Play Integrity API to all developers earlier this year to help you detect risky, unknown interactions such as from tampered versions of your app or unsupported app environments. You call this API when a user performs an action in your app to check whether it’s your genuine app on a genuine Android device. If something’s off, you can decide what defensive actions to take. Early data show that this feature has helped developers reduce unauthorized usage of their apps by over 50%.

In addition to customizing your API responses and setting up tests in Play Console, we’re launching reporting so you can analyze and break down API responses across your install base. And, soon, you’ll be able to debug Integrity API responses from the Play Store app’s developer settings on any device. This will help you spot issues and refine your anti-abuse strategy. Get started today with the Play Integrity API here.

Introducing new protections against review attacks on Play apps

For you to grow successful businesses and for users to have trustworthy information to help them decide if an app is right for them, it’s critical that app reviews are accurate, relevant, and genuine. Earlier this year, we rolled out a more aggressive program to proactively stop inaccurate, coordinated user attacks on app ratings. Our strengthened system now better detects anomalies and unexplained spikes in low star ratings so that our team can quickly investigate suspicious activity and respond to it. Since this program launched at the start of this year, we have had no major review attacks that materially impacted the ratings of top-downloaded apps. We’ve continued to strengthen the program further by introducing a mandatory 24-hour-delay of all incoming app reviews. Play is also exploring ways to evolve our policy to help ensure the content of app reviews is relevant to the app experience and further elevate trustworthy information on our platform. We'll have more to share soon.

Expanding our program to give developers direct Play Policy support

While we help developers understand our policy changes through a variety of communications and trainings, we heard that you want more direct policy support from Google. Early last year, we started our Google Play Developer Helpline pilot to explore giving developers direct policy support over the phone. By the first half of 2021, we scaled the pilot to 12,000 developers in India and since then, we’ve expanded this offering to 44,000 developers in 17 countries. Today, the Helpline program has completed nearly 4,000 policy support sessions with developers and received a satisfaction score of around 90%. So far, this program has helped developers navigate policy compliance issues. We look forward to further scaling the program to many more of you soon.

Launching the Strike Removal pilot program

Beyond expanded policy support, we also introduced a new program this year to provide developers deeper education on important but commonly misunderstood policy areas. We know that most developers work hard to create and distribute their apps with good intentions, and may sometimes unknowingly violate policies. The Play Strike Removal pilot program provides the opportunity for you to remove an enforcement strike by successfully taking a Play Academy training course and assessment related to the policy violation. We’ve started this program with courses on IP Infringement and Spam policy violations, which account for nearly 2 out of 3 developer suspensions. We hope to add more courses in the future to help you better understand the policies that keep Play safe.

Previewing a more privacy-friendly approach to advertising

As a reminder, Privacy Sandbox for Android is a multi-year initiative to create innovative technologies that will both protect user privacy and give you tools to build thriving digital businesses. These solutions aim to make current tracking mechanisms obsolete and limit covert tracking techniques, like fingerprinting. To do this, we're working on core advertising capabilities that don’t need access to cross-app identifiers, like the Ad ID. You'll be able to use these solutions individually or together to target ads and measure them to create efficient campaigns, all while better protecting user privacy. We’re working in close partnership with the industry and developers. Today, you can test Developer Previews, begin designing integrations, and send us feedback.

As a platform, we only succeed when our developers succeed. We work with partners, like you, every day to understand the challenges you face, help launch innovative apps to Google Play, and ensure that the apps remain safe and trusted by our shared users. Thank you for your partnership in making Google Play a safe and trustworthy platform for everyone.