Summary of major updates to Android Developer Policies by Google after spending months of efforts considering user's feedback and developers complaints.
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Google Unveiled its New Android Developer Policies: 5 major Updates rolled out

New Android Developer PolicyWinning the user’s trust is a key to success that leading players such as Google rightly understand. After spending months of efforts considering user’s feedback and developer’s complaints, the significant updates are made to Android APIs, Google Play Store policies, data access, and collection by the developers, and restriction on certain permission access.

However, the refined app review process and added several rules are not revealed completely. But, Google put stress on the point that developer-centric approach and openness are the cornerstones of the Android ecosystem when modifications are brought to the top of the table after communicating with the developer’s community. This time also the company make efforts in the direction of inching closer to earn user’s trust with safe and secure applications.

Let’s take a close look at the updates made to Google’s Android developer’s policies in 2019:

Privacy policies improved in Android Q

Jam-packed with dozens of new features and functionalities, Android Q gets a valuable privacy update where the users will have more transparency and control over the personal data. In addition to system level changes, the developer’s policies are also refined by mandating the developers to disclose what personal data is being used where and when with fine-grained details, and leverage only those permissions that are actually needed to provide the services. The guidance for the biggest headache- Project Strobe is now rolled out for each Android runtime permission.

Plus, the developers have to deal with scoped storage where the apps are not allowed to access the data on the user’s device’s external storage. For Android Q and onwards, the permissions requesting data will be treated as if the users have rejected them and the app is not allowed to access the arbitrary location on external storage. The READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE and WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permissions will become ineffective in reading or writing the data on external storage.

There are no bots in the app review process

After listening to developer’s complaints, Google acknowledged two things: the time it takes in providing answers to the developers regarding their app comply with privacy policies or not, and cumbersome appeal process for making decisions on appeals is plagued with longer durations; the generic responses during communication gives the developers bad impression that decisions are automated with no human involvement alongside it’s hard to reach out a person who could help in providing details about privacy policy.

To better address the problem, Google assured that the request procedure will be enhanced by growing the team where the humans review every decision and provide more personalized responses at an accelerated pace. The VP of Google stresses at the point– not bots but human are already reviewing and making answer for the decisions, and the responses will be made better by increasing the team size.

The emails send upon policy rejections will be revised to explain the developers in detail why decisions are made, what changes to incorporate in the app to make it comply with privacy policies, and how to appeal. Under the improved appeal process, the appeal instruction will be a part of all the emails and appeal with a form with details can be retrieved from Google’s Help Center.

New developer’s account will be evaluated more

User’s data safety is the prime concern for Google, but some developers repetitively violate the Privacy Policies due to which their accounts are suspended. Again, these developers trick the system by creating new accounts to publish unsafe apps.

In order to prevent bad-faith developer play with Android system’s openness and user’s data, the time for the app review process is increased especially when they are published by new developers. The company states that the longer evaluation process helps them in making thorough checks before the app gets approved and go live in the App Store.

Moreover, some developers raise the anxiety of account suspension for no good reason. In the answer, Google says 99% of the account suspension decisions are correct and in the event, any account is disabled mistakenly, the developers can immediately appeal the enforcement that will be reviewed by a person. The longer review process would help in making little-to-none imprecise decisions for developer’s account suspension.

Restrictions on access to certain permissions

Following Project Strobe, Google made an important announcement for a couple of Android applications that can ask the permissions to the users to collect, use and take the benefit of the phone and SMS data. Some of the apps made an attempt to avail the user’s data through permissions that are actually not required.

In order to protect the user’s data that can be easily accessed through permissions for the inappropriate use case, the new policy ensures that apps can ask for only those permissions which are essential to accomplish the app’s primary functionality, and the users should know why the permission is needed for the app to function.

Now, developer’s access to SMS and Call Log permissions are restricted and the developers are required to submit the permission declaration form, else the app will be removed from Google Play Store.

Related: Privacy, Security, and Deception- These Three Points Need to know every android developer

Permission restriction leads to consternation

The Google initiative for strengthening the privacy protection for users has brought sizeable work of developers. The enforcement of new SMS and Call Log policies are the one that has raised the developer’s frustration for the decision made as the valuable functionalities will be removed and the unclear, obtuse, and hard to precisely complete the permission declaration form for different use cases multiplied the dismay.

Even the developers put their complaint on Reddit and Google issue tracker platform considering the step towards security killed the usability of many apps. Easy Join Pro app has become a victim as the first functionality of the app includes internet-less interaction of sending the text message and calls with all devices in the network, which will be stripped out. The core functionality of the app in threat can break the app performance.

ACR Call recorder app and Tasker have also had the same fate as the permission access to record phone calls and accessing user’s SMS and calls are restricted respectively that cripple the application.

The final thought

Over a decade, Google is working in the direction of making the Android ecosystem healthy and safeguard the user’s data, which is good for Android app developers. This time changes brought to the review process regarding policies and enforcement practices are not warmly welcomed by the developers and controversy is raised around permission access.

On the flip side, the agony is a part and parcel of every significant change brought to the system that will definitely be sorted out in the near future. As a responsible and leading Android app development company, we strive for the best solutions for users and safeguarding their interests in the best manner possible. This is also in the interest of the developer community at large that we hope for the best in the coming days. It’s expected that significant work from the developer’s side will create amazing experiences and gradually build trust while protecting user’s privacy. This is what Google anticipates, and it’s time to see how developers react and work their way towards creating better opportunities for mankind. And as luck would have it, that’s what we as developers are best at, isn’t it?

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