Today, Google announced a new Play Store update that will give users more control over their data and protect them from certain predatory apps. The update will combat “fleeceware” subscription apps, include new location data policies, and help keep deceptive content out of the Play Store. Google hopes this will help the company win over user trust and ensure user safety.
As more Android users take advantage of the Play Store’s built-in subscription functionality, Google wants to crack down on fleeceware apps. People first started noticing these apps in the Play Store in September 2019. They use the Play Store’s subscription system to trick users into paying absurd amounts of money for rudimentary apps like QR scanners and calculators. Fleeceware apps aren’t particularly malicious, but they are exploitative.
The new Play Store policy update will require developers to layout their subscription details more clearly, so users have a better understanding of what they are signing up for. This includes spelling out the offer itself, the terms of the app’s free trial, and even how to manage or cancel the subscriptions later on.
As far as the Play Store’s location data update is concerned, Google will give Android users further control over which apps can track them and when. Current Android users can manage location data permissions on an app-by-app basis, but the new update will give them the ability to grant an app temporary one-time location permission access. We’ve already seen this feature pop up in the Android 11 developer preview, but Google is now making it official.
Because these new location policies may be complicated for developers to comply with, Google is giving them until August to implement them in new apps and November for existing apps. Developers only have until June 16 to implement the aforementioned subscription policy updates.
Google also mentioned that further policy changes would prevent deceptive apps and content from entering the Play Store. This includes manipulated content like deepfakes, but Google did not explain how it plans to do this.