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Posted by Gloria On, Program Manager, Google Play
Many developers are increasingly focused on growing their businesses globally, and there were more than 94 billion apps downloaded from Google Play in the last year, reaching more than 190 countries. The regulatory environment is frequently changing in local markets, and in some countries local governments have implemented withholding tax requirements on transactions with which Google or our payment processor partners must comply. We strive to help both developers and Google meet local tax requirements in markets where we do business, and where Google or our payment processor partners are required to withhold taxes, we may need to deduct those amounts from our payments to developers.
Due to new requirements in some markets, we'll be rolling out withholding taxes soon to all those doing business in those countries. We wanted to bring this to the attention of Google Play developers to allow you time to prepare for these upcoming changes and take any necessary measures to meet these obligations. We strongly recommend developers consult with a professional tax advisor on your individual tax implications in affected markets and for guidance on the potential impact on your business so that you can make any necessary preparations.
The first countries where we will roll out these changes will be Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Myanmar. You can refer to the Google Play help center page to stay informed on future updates and changes.
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Posted by Andrew Ahn, Product Manager, Google Play
Google Play is committed to providing a secure and safe platform for billions of Android users on their journey discovering and experiencing the apps they love and enjoy. To deliver against this commitment, we worked last year to improve our abuse detection technologies and systems, and significantly increased our team of product managers, engineers, policy experts, and operations leaders to fight against bad actors.
In 2018, we introduced a series of new policies to protect users from new abuse trends, detected and removed malicious developers faster, and stopped more malicious apps from entering the Google Play Store than ever before. The number of rejected app submissions increased by more than 55 percent, and we increased app suspensions by more than 66 percent. These increases can be attributed to our continued efforts to tighten policies to reduce the number of harmful apps on the Play Store, as well as our investments in automated protections and human review processes that play critical roles in identifying and enforcing on bad apps.
In addition to identifying and stopping bad apps from entering the Play Store, our Google Play Protect system now scans over 50 billion apps on users' devices each day to make sure apps installed on the device aren't behaving in harmful ways. With such protection, apps from Google Play are eight times less likely to harm a user's device than Android apps from other sources.
Here are some areas we've been focusing on in the last year and that will continue to be a priority for us in 2019:
Protecting User Privacy
Protecting users' data and privacy is a critical factor in building user trust. We've long required developers to limit their device permission requests to what's necessary to provide the features of an app. Also, to help users understand how their data is being used, we've required developers to provide prominent disclosures about the collection and use of sensitive user data. Last year, we rejected or removed tens of thousands of apps that weren't in compliance with Play's policies related to user data and privacy.
In October 2018, we announced a new policy restricting the use of the SMS and Call Log permissions to a limited number of cases, such as where an app has been selected as the user's default app for making calls or sending text messages. We've recently started to remove apps from Google Play that violate this policy. We plan to introduce additional policies for device permissions and user data throughout 2019.
We find that over 80% of severe policy violations are conducted by repeat offenders and abusive developer networks. When malicious developers are banned, they often create new accounts or buy developer accounts on the black market in order to come back to Google Play. We've further enhanced our clustering and account matching technologies, and by combining these technologies with the expertise of our human reviewers, we've made it more difficult for spammy developer networks to gain installs by blocking their apps from being published in the first place.
Harmful app contents and behaviors
As mentioned in last year's blog post, we fought against hundreds of thousands of impersonators, apps with inappropriate content, and Potentially Harmful Applications (PHAs). In a continued fight against these types of apps, not only do we apply advanced machine learning models to spot suspicious apps, we also conduct static and dynamic analyses, intelligently use user engagement and feedback data, and leverage skilled human reviews, which have helped in finding more bad apps with higher accuracy and efficiency.
Despite our enhanced and added layers of defense against bad apps, we know bad actors will continue to try to evade our systems by changing their tactics and cloaking bad behaviors. We will continue to enhance our capabilities to counter such adversarial behavior, and work relentlessly to provide our users with a secure and safe app store.
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Posted by Fei Ye, Software Engineer and Kazushi Nagayama, Ninja Spamologist
Google Play ratings and reviews are extremely important in helping users decide which apps to install. Unfortunately, fake and misleading reviews can undermine users' trust in those ratings. User trust is a top priority for us at Google Play, and we are continuously working to make sure that the ratings and reviews shown in our store are not being manipulated.
There are various ways in which ratings and reviews may violate our developer guidelines:
- Bad content: Reviews that are profane, hateful, or off-topic.
- Fake ratings: Ratings and reviews meant to manipulate an app's average rating or top reviews. We've seen different approaches to manipulate the average rating; from 5-star attacks to positively boost an app's average rating, to 1-star attacks to influence it negatively.
- Incentivized ratings: Ratings and reviews given by real humans in exchange for money or valuable items.
When we see these, we take action on the app itself, as well as the review or rating in question.
In 2018, the Google Play Trust & Safety teams deployed a system that combines human intelligence with machine learning to detect and enforce policy violations in ratings and reviews. A team of engineers and analysts closely monitor and study suspicious activities in Play's ratings and reviews, and improve the model's precision and recall on a regular basis. We also regularly ask skilled reviewers to check the decisions made by our models for quality assurance.
It's a big job. To give you a sense of the volume we manage, here are some numbers from a recent week:
- Millions of reviews and ratings detected and removed from the Play Store.
- Thousands of bad apps identified due to suspicious reviews and rating activities on them.
Our team can do a lot, but we need your help to keep Google Play a safe and trusted place for apps and games.
If you're a developer, you can help us by doing the following:
- Don't buy fake or incentivized ratings.
- Don't run campaigns, in-app or otherwise, like "Give us 5 stars and we'll give you this in-app item!" That counts as incentivized ratings, and it's prohibited by policy.
- Do read the Google Play Developer Policy to make sure you are not inadvertently making violations.
Example of a violation: incentivized ratings is not allowed
If you're a user, you can follow these simple guidelines as well:
- Don't accept or receive money or goods (even virtual ones) in exchange for reviews and ratings.
- Don't use profanity to criticize an app or game; keep your feedback constructive.
- Don't post gibberish, hateful, sexual, profane or off-topic reviews; they simply aren't allowed.
- Do read the comment posting policy. It's pretty concise and talks about all the things you should consider when posting a review to the public.
Tooltip to flag the review as Spam.
Thanks for helping us keep Google Play a safe and trusted place to discover some of the world's best apps and games.
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Posted by Purnima Kochikar, Director, Google Play, Apps & Games
On Monday we released Android 9 Pie. As we continue to push the Android platform forward, we're always looking to provide new ways to distribute your apps efficiently, help people discover and engage with your work, and improve the overall security of our ecosystem. Google Play has had a busy year so far with some big milestones around helping you reach more users, including:
- Shrinking download size: Android App Bundle & Dynamic Delivery has helped reduce app sizes by up to 65%, leading to increased downloads and fewer uninstalls.
- Helpling improve quality: New tools in the Play Console have helped you reduce crash rates by up to 70%.
- Improving discovery: Improvements to the discovery experience has increased Google Play Store visits by 30% over the last 12 months.
- Keeping users safe: Google Play Protect scans more than 50 billion apps a day and Android API level 26 adoption requirements improve app security and performance.
Google Play is dedicated to helping you build and grow quality app businesses, reach the more than 2 billion Android devices globally and provide your users with better experiences. Here are some of the important areas we're prioritizing this year:
We've added more testing tools to the popular Play Console to help developers de-risk app launches with internal and external test tracks and staged rollouts to get valuable early feedback. This year we've expanded the Start on Android program globally that provides developers new to Android additional guidance to optimize their apps before launch. Google Play Instant remains a huge bet to transform app discovery and improve conversions by letting users engage without the friction of installing. We're seeing great results from early adopters and are working on new places to surface instant experience, including ads, and making them easier to build throughout the year.
Improving App Quality
Google Play plays an important role helping developers understand and fix quality and performance issues. At I/O, we showcased how we expanded the battery, stability and rendering of Android vitals reporting to include app start time & permission denials, enabling developers to cut application not responding errors by up to 95%. We also expanded the functionality of automated device testing with the pre-launch report to enable games testing. Recently, we increased the importance of app quality in our search and discovery recommendations that has resulted in higher engagement and satisfaction with downloaded games.
Over the last year we've rolled out more editorial content and improved our machine learning to deliver personalized recommendations for apps and games that engage users. Since most game downloads come from browsing (as opposed to searching or deep linking into) the store, we've put particular focus on games discovery, with a new games home page, special sections for premium and new games, immersive video trailers and screenshots, and the ability to try games instantly. We've also introduced new programs to help drive app downloads through richer discovery. For example, since launching our app pre-registration program in 2016, we've seen nearly 250 million app pre-registrations. Going forward, we'll be expanding on these programs and others like LiveOps cards to help developers engage more deeply with their audience.
Expanding Commerce Platform
Google Play now collects payments in 150 markets via credit card, direct carrier billing (DCB), Paypal, and gift cards. Direct carrier billing is now enabled across 167 carriers in 64 markets. In 2018, we have focused on expanding our footprint in Africa and Latam with launches in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Peru & Colombia. And users can now buy Google Play credit via gift cards or other means in more 800,000 retail locations around the world. This year, we also launched seller support in 18 new markets bringing the total markets with seller support to 98. Our subscription offering continues to improve with ML-powered fraud detection and even more control for subscribers and developers. Google Play's risk modeling automatically helps detect fraudulent transactions and purchase APIs help you better analyze your refund data to identify suspicious activity.
Maintaining a Safe & Secure Ecosystem
Google Play Protect and our other systems scan and analyze more than 50 billion apps a day to keep our ecosystem safe for users and developers. In fact, people who only download apps from Google Play are nine times less likely to download a potentially harmful app than those who download from other sources. We've made significant improvements in our ability to detect abuse—such as impersonation, inappropriate content, fraud, or malware—through new machine learning models and techniques. The result is that 99% of apps with abusive content are identified and rejected before anyone can install them. We're also continuing to run the Google Play Security Rewards Program through a collaboration with Hacker One to discover other vulnerabilities.
We are continually inspired by what developers build—check out #IMakeApps for incredible examples—and want every developer to have the tools needed to succeed. We can't wait to see what you do next!
With audiobooks on Google Play, rolling out today in 45 countries and nine languages, you can turn your time stuck in traffic, on the treadmill, or waiting in line into reading time. Find your next great read at an affordable price, and enjoy it across Android, iOS and the web with Google Play Books, as well as on devices that include the Google Assistant, like Google Home and many others (where available regionally.) Here’s what you need to know:
- Listen without a subscription. On Google Play, you can buy a single audiobook at an affordable price, with no commitments. You can also get a free preview of the book to make sure you’re hooked by the story and enjoy listening to the narrator’s voice.
- Enjoy your audiobook with your Google Assistant. Just say “Ok Google, read my book” to listen to your favorite audiobook hands free with the Google Assistant on your phone or speaker, like Google Home. Try “Ok Google, who is the author?” if you need a refresher, or “Ok Google, stop playing in 20 minutes” to set a timer for bedtime reading. For now, the Google Assistant integration with audiobooks is available on Android phones and smart speakers globally in English.
- Weave reading into your day across multiple devices. Start your morning by listening to “Ready Player One” with the Assistant on supported Android phones, and continue listening on your laptop when you have a few moments of downtime during the day. You can pick up where you left off no matter what device you're using, with the Assistant or the Google Play Books app—on Android, iOS, Chromecast, Android Wear, Android Auto or even your laptop.
- An Unsuitable Boy, by Karan Johar
- India 2017, by New Media Wing
- Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored, by Rishi Kapoor
- I Do What I Do, by Raghuram G. Rajan
- Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga, by Sadhguru
- Saahore Baahubali, by M.M. Keeravaani
- Ik Vaari Aa, by Arijit Singh
- Mercy, by Badshah
- Main Tera Boyfriend, by Arijit Singh
- Cheez Badi, by Neha Kakkar