Tag Archives: Google Play

How Google Play Protect kept users safe in 2019


Through 2019, Google Play Protect continued to improve the security for 2.5 billion Android devices. Built into Android, Play Protect scans over 100 billion apps every day for malware and other harmful apps. This past year, Play Protect prevented over 1.9 billion malware installs from unknown sources. Throughout 2019 there were many improvements made to Play Protect to bring the best of Google to Android devices to keep users safe. Some of the new features launched in 2019 include:
Advanced similarity detection
Play Protect now warns you about variations of known malware right on the device. On-device protections warn users about Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs) at install time for a faster response. Since October 2019, Play Protect issued 380,000 warnings for install attempts using this system.
Warnings for apps targeting lower Android versions
Malware developers intentionally target devices running long outdated versions of Android to abuse exploits that have recently been patched. In 2018, Google Play started requiring new apps and app updates be built for new versions of the Android OS. This strategy ensures that users downloading apps from Google Play recieve apps that take advantage of the latest privacy and security improvements in the OS.
In 2019, we improved on this strategy with warnings to the user. Play Protect now notifies users when they install an app that is designed for outdated versions. The user can then make an informed decision to proceed with the installation or stop the app from being installed so they can look for an alternative that target the most current version of Android.
Uploading rare apps for scanning
The Android app ecosystem is growing at an exponential rate. Millions of new app versions are created and shared outside of Google Play daily posing a unique scaling challenge. Knowledge of new and rare apps is essential to provide the best protection possible.
We added a new feature that lets users help the fight against malware by sending apps Play Protect hasn't seen before for scanning during installation. The upload to Google’s scanning services preserves the privacy of the user and enables Play Protect to improve the protection for all users.
Integration with Google’s Files app
Google’s Files app is used by hundreds of millions of people every month to manage the storage on their device, share files safely, and clean up clutter and duplicate files. This year, we integrated Google Play Protect notifications within the app so that users are prompted to scan and remove any harmful applications that may be installed.
Play Protect visual updates
The Google Play Store has over 2 billion monthly active users coming to safely find the right app, game, and other digital content. This year the team was excited to roll out a complete visual redesign. With this change, Play Protect made several user-facing updates to deliver a cleaner, more prominent experience including a reminder to enable app-scanning in My apps & games to improve security.
The mobile threat landscape is always changing and so Google Play Protect must keep adapting and improving to protect our users. Visit developers.google.com/android/play-protect to stay informed on all the new exciting features and improvements being added to Google Play Protect.
Acknowledgements: Aaron Josephs, Ben Gruver, James Kelly, Rodrigo Farell, Wei Jin and William Luh

Unveiling expert insights in our new podcast series: Apps, Games, & Insights

Posted by Lily Sheringham, Global Marketing, Platforms & Ecosystems

This is a cross-post from The Google Keyword blog.

Apps, Games, & Insights illustrated banner with gaming imagery.

Today we’re launching the Apps, Games, & Insights podcast series, bringing together insights, stories, and learnings from industry experts, on some of today's hottest topics surrounding mobile, apps and games businesses, and the wider industry.

Listen to the podcast here!

The series has eight episodes which aim to challenge, provoke thought, and enlighten listeners - from designers and developers, through to product managers and marketers, and those interested in the apps and games industry.

The podcast is hosted by Googlers Tamzin Taylor, who heads up Apps & Games Business Development for Google Play in Western Europe, and Dirk Primbs, who leads the Ecosystem Developer Relations team in EMEA. Together, they have many years of experience working with partners to assist with Android development, mobile, app, game, and business growth. Every week they will be joined by different guests for each of the episodes.

Sneak peek at what’s coming up

Kicking off the series are Judy Chen and Sarah Fuchs from Crowdstar, the developers of Covet Fashion and Design Home. They join us for episode 1 to discuss how to build a long-term games business by taking a holistic approach to the game, its players, and the people who create the game.

Ever wonder if it's worth selling your app or game business, and if so how to approach it? It's not all about pocketing the cash and walking away. For episode 2, game mergers and acquisitions expert Chris Petrovic from Zynga will talk about how acquisition can free developers to focus on what they love: creating great apps and games.

The popularity of subscriptions continues to grow, with developers who used subscriptions earning 4X more in 2018, than in 2016. Holly Ackerman and David Berlin, from the sports streaming platform DAZN, join us for episode 3 to provide some fascinating insights into how they have grown their subscription business in this industry.

Whether you are a startup in search of funding or an established business looking to accelerate your investment, venture capital can often be a good source of funds. In episode 4, venture capital expert Matteo Vallone from Cherry Ventures offers insights into the investment process and how to maximize your appeal to investors.

For episode 5, we have what is possibly one of the biggest topics in mobile and throughout the tech industry: privacy. Bruce Gustafson, CEO of Developers Alliance brings us up to speed on trust and safety, platform value, respecting the user, and ultimately building privacy friendly apps and games.

Successful game developers put players front and center of everything they do. When over 270 million people have played your games, you must be doing something right. Ben Clarke, Senior Global Marketing Director at Jagex, joins us for episode 6 to discuss some of the innovative approaches to player engagement and retention taken in their RuneScape games.

Figuring out how to make your app or game accessible to all can often be a challenge, sometimes both from an organizational and technical perspective. However, many developers have made accessibility a core part of their app development process and company culture. For episode 7, we’re joined by Ceri Lindsay and Rosalind Whittam from the BBC to discover how they address accessibility.

Today, Android is not just about smartphones, Android apps and games can run on a range of devices with larger screens, such as Chromebooks. At the same time, mature mobile game franchises are looking for opportunities beyond mobile. In our final episode 8, we’ll be joined by Maximiliano Rodriguez of Gameloft to talk about the challenge of taking games to big screens and new platforms.

We hope you’ll join us over the next eight weeks to dive deeper and hear what our thought leader guests have to say on each topic.

How to stay tuned in

To listen to our first podcast and find out more about what’s coming, check out our new Apps, Games, & Insights podcast homepage.

Listen to our first episode here, or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Google Podcasts, Deezer, iHeartRadio, and also on LibSyn. Keep an eye out on @GooglePlayDev and @AndroidDev on Twitter where we will be announcing the launch of the new episodes each week.

How useful did you find this blog post?

Update on Google at GDC 2020

Posted by the Google for Games Team

Last Friday, GDC 2020 organizers made the difficult decision to postpone the conference. We understand this decision, as we have to prioritize the health and safety of our community.

Every year, we look forward to the Game Developers Conference and surrounding events because it gives our teams a chance to connect with game developers, partners, and friends in the industry.

Although we won’t be connecting in-person this year, we’re still excited to share the latest announcements from Google with everyone through our digital experience. We'll be sharing plans for our digital experience in the coming days.

Thank you to all who keep this community thriving and check back soon at g.co/gdc2020 for more details.

Update on Google at GDC 2020

Posted by the Google for Games Team

Last Friday, GDC 2020 organizers made the difficult decision to postpone the conference. We understand this decision, as we have to prioritize the health and safety of our community.

Every year, we look forward to the Game Developers Conference and surrounding events because it gives our teams a chance to connect with game developers, partners, and friends in the industry.

Although we won’t be connecting in-person this year, we’re still excited to share the latest announcements from Google with everyone through our digital experience. We'll be sharing plans for our digital experience in the coming days.

Thank you to all who keep this community thriving and check back soon at g.co/gdc2020 for more details.

Safer and More Transparent Access to User Location

Posted by Krish Vitaldevara, Director of Product Management Trust & Safety, Google Play

Last year, we made several changes to our platform and policies to increase user trust and safety. We’re proud of the work we’ve done to improve family safety, limit use of sensitive permissions, and catch bad actors before they ever reach the Play Store.

We realize that changes can lead to work for developers. Last year, you told us that you wanted more detailed communications about impactful updates, why we’re making them, and how to take action. You also asked for as much time as possible to make any changes required.

With that feedback in mind, today, we’re previewing Android and Google Play policy changes that will impact how developers access location in the background.

Giving users more control over their location data

Users consistently tell us that they want more control over their location data and that we should take every precaution to prevent misuse. Since the beginning of Android, users have needed to grant explicit permission to any app that wants access to their location data.

In Android 10, people were given additional control to only grant access when the app is in use, which makes location access more intentional. Users clearly appreciated this option as over half of users select “While app is in use.”

Now in Android 11, we’re giving users even more control with the ability to grant a temporary “one-time” permission to sensitive data like location. When users select this option, apps can only access the data until the user moves away from the app, and they must then request permission again for the next access. Please visit the Android 11 developer preview to learn more.

Preventing unnecessary access to background location

Users tell us they also want more protection on earlier versions of Android - as well as more transparency around how apps use this data.

As we took a closer look at background location usage, we found that many of the apps that requested background location didn’t actually need it. In fact, many of these apps could provide the same user experience by only accessing location when the app is visible to the user. We want to make it easier for users to choose when to share their location and they shouldn't be asked for a permission that the app doesn't need.

Later this year, we will be updating Google Play policy to require that developers get approval if they want to access location data in the background. Factors that will be looked at include:

  • Does the feature deliver clear value to the user?
  • Would users expect the app to access their location in the background?
  • Is the feature important to the primary purpose of the app?
  • Can you deliver the same experience without accessing location in the background?

All apps will be evaluated against the same factors, including apps made by Google, and all submissions will be reviewed by people on our team. Let’s take a look at three examples:

An app that sends emergency or safety alerts as part of its core functionality - and clearly communicates why access is needed to the user - would have a strong case to request background location.

A social networking app that allows users to elect to continuously share their location with friends would also have a strong case to access location in the background.

An app with a store locator feature would work just fine by only accessing location when the app is visible to the user. In this scenario, the app would not have a strong case to request background location under the new policy.

When we spoke to developers for feedback, the vast majority understood user concerns over their information falling into the wrong hands and were willing to change their location usage to be safer and more transparent.

Getting approval for background access

We know that when we update our policies, you want to get actionable feedback and have ample time to make changes. Before we implement this policy change, you will be able to submit your use case via the Play Console and receive feedback on whether it will be allowed under the new policy.

We anticipate the following timeline for this policy rollout; however, it is subject to change.

  • April: official Google Play policy update with background location
  • May: developers can request feedback on their use case via the Play Console with an estimated reply time of 2 weeks, depending on volume
  • August 3rd: all new apps submitted to Google Play that access background location will need to be approved
  • November 2nd: all existing apps that request background location will need to be approved or will be removed from Google Play

Review and evaluate your location access

We encourage all developers to review the following best practices for accessing location data in their apps:

  • Review the background location access checklist to identify any potential access in your code. Remember you are also responsible for ensuring all third party SDKs or libraries that you use comply with our policies, including access to background location.
  • Minimize your use of location by using the minimum scope necessary to provide a feature (i.e., coarse instead of fine, foreground instead of background).
  • Review privacy best practices and ensure you have the proper disclosure and privacy policies in place.

We hope you found this policy preview useful in planning your roadmap for the year and we appreciate your efforts to build privacy-friendly apps. Together, we can keep the Android ecosystem safe and secure for everyone.

How we fought bad apps and malicious developers in 2019

Posted by Andrew Ahn, Product Manager, Google Play + Android App Safety

Google Play connects users with great digital experiences to help them be more productive and entertained, as well as providing app developers with tools to reach billions of users around the globe. Such a thriving ecosystem can only be achieved and sustained when trust and safety is one of its key foundations. Over the last few years we’ve made the trust and safety of Google Play a top priority, and have continued our investments and improvements in our abuse detection systems, policies, and teams to fight against bad apps and malicious actors.

In 2019, we continued to strengthen our policies (especially to better protect kids and families), continued to improve our developer approval process, initiated a deeper collaboration with security industry partners through the App Defense Alliance, enhanced our machine learning detection systems analyzing an app’s code, metadata, and user engagement signals for any suspicious content or behaviors, as well as scaling the number and the depth of manual reviews. The combination of these efforts have resulted in a much cleaner Play Store:

  • Google Play released a new policy in 2018 to stop apps from unnecessarily accessing privacy-sensitive SMS and Call Log data. We saw a significant, 98% decrease in apps accessing SMS and Call Log data as developers partnered with us to update their apps and protect users. The remaining 2% are comprised of apps that require SMS and Call Log data to perform their core function.
  • One of the best ways to protect users from bad apps is to keep those apps out of the Play Store in the first place. Our improved vetting mechanisms stopped over 790,000 policy-violating app submissions before they were ever published to the Play Store.
  • Similarly to our SMS and Call Log policy, we also enacted a policy to better protect families in May 2019. After putting this in place, we worked with developers to update or remove tens of thousands of apps, making the Play Store a safer place for everyone.

In addition we’ve launched a refreshed Google Play Protect experience, our built-in malware protection for Android devices. Google Play Protect scans over 100B apps everyday, providing users with information about potential security issues and actions they can take to keep their devices safe and secure. Last year, Google Play Protect also prevented more than 1.9B malware installs from non-Google Play sources.

While we are proud of what we were able to achieve in partnership with our developer community, we know there is more work to be done. Adversarial bad actors will continue to devise new ways to evade our detection systems and put users in harm's way for their own gains. Our commitment in building the world's safest and most helpful app platform will continue in 2020, and we will continue to invest in the key app safety areas mentioned in last year’s blog post:

  • Strengthening app safety policies to protect user privacy
  • Faster detection of bad actors and blocking repeat offenders
  • Detecting and removing apps with harmful content and behaviors

Our teams of passionate product managers, engineers, policy experts, and operations leaders will continue to work with the developer community to accelerate the pace of innovation, and deliver a safer app store to billions of Android users worldwide.

Come celebrate the art of indie games with us

Today we’re announcing the 2020 edition of the Google Play Indie Games Festival, a celebration of the passion, creativity and innovation that indie game developers bring to the Google Play store. 

This year we will host three competitions for indie game developers from Japan, South Korea and several European countries. The top 20 creators in each region will be chosen to showcase their games at public events in Tokyo, Seoul and Warsaw. Players, industry experts and the Google Play team will vote to select the top 10, and from there, three winners for each regional contest will be crowned. 

Prizes are designed to help indie developers showcase their games and grow their businesses on Google Play. This includes things like promotions on the Google Play Store and chances to network with industry experts and influencers. Winners could even go home with the latest Android devices, which can help them curb development costs.

If you make indie games and meet the eligibility criteria, enter your game by March 2, 2020. 

The contests aren’t just for developers, though. If you like playing unique, creative, high quality games, you can sign up to attend the final events in Warsaw, Tokyo and Seoul, where you’ll get the chance to  play the games, meet the developers, vote for your favorites, help choose the winners….and of course, have a little fun. 

Need some inspiration? Check out the winners of the 2019 edition in Europe.

Enter the Indie Games Festival from Google Play

Posted by Patricia Correa, Director, Developer Marketing

Indie Games Festival banner

The indie developer community released several fantastic titles on Google Play during 2019, showing the technical skill and innovative design that makes them an essential part of the gaming landscape.

To continue helping indie developers thrive, today we’re announcing the 2020 edition of our annual Google Play Indie Games Festival. This year we will host three competitions for developers from several European countries*, Japan, and South Korea.

Prizes:

Prizes are designed to help you grow your business, including:

  • The chance to exhibit at the final events in Warsaw, Tokyo or Seoul
  • Promotions on the Google Play Store
  • Promotions on our consumer and developer-facing channels
  • Access to exclusive developer-focused Google events
  • Personalized consultation sessions with Google team members
  • And more!

Eligibility:

The contests are open to developers from selected countries, with no more than 50 employees. The submitted game must be new, released at least in open beta between May 7, 2019 and March 2, 2020. See other requirements in the terms and conditions for each of the contests.

Process:

process banner for Indie Games Festival

Simply fill out the relevant form by clicking here. Submissions are open until March 2, 2020, at 3pm CET.

The Top 20 entries in each region will be announced in March and invited to showcase at the Festival events where the field will be narrowed to 10 by the event audience, industry experts and the Google team. The Top 10 will present their games on stage and the 3 winners will be selected.

Not submitting a game? Come and take part:

Even if you’re not submitting a game to the competitions, we’d love to see you at one of the Festival events on the 25th of April 2020.

Learn more and sign up on g.co/play/indiefestival

* The European competition is open to developers from the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland).

How useful did you find this blog post?

#IMakeApps: One developer’s life on the road

Sterling Udell and his wife Teresa always loved to travel and the opportunity to hit the road full-time was a dream for them. At some point, they realized that software development was a remote-friendly job, and decided not to put off traveling any longer. Check out more #IMakeApps stories on g.co/play/imakeapps.

What kickstarted your nomadic lifestyle? 

I’ve always loved travel, and my wife and I used to dream about someday making it work as a lifestyle. Then, a serious health issue brought home that there might not be a “someday.” I was already working remotely as a programmer, and we realized that it would be possible to kit out an RV to support doing so on the road. So we took the plunge!

How do you juggle your lifestyle with your work as a developer? 

Being an independent developer gives me lots of flexibility in how I work, and we’re pretty flexible in our travel as well, so it’s not too difficult to fit the two together. Our preferred mode of travel is to park up for a few days in one location, where I’ll tend to work on apps most days, with some time off for getting to know the area as well. Then we’ll pack up and move on to somewhere else⁠—seeing the sights along the way⁠—and start the cycle over. 

Does your lifestyle inspire or influence the types of apps you create? 

Absolutely. We spend a lot of time outdoors, and that makes you very aware of the natural passage of time: day into night, summer into winter, then back around again. Not to mention, if you’re spending time outdoors, there’s a practical side to knowing what time the sun will rise, or when the daylight will fade. This was the basis of TerraTime, an app that displays the natural flow of sunlight, clouds, seasons and beyond, accessible in the palm of your hand. And Lunescope works  similarly, but for the phases of the moon. Both apps are focused on showcasing the world’s  natural rhythm.

What app are you working on at the moment?  

I’m currently working on a major update to TerraTime Pro, adding a feature that many folks have requested. The focus of the app has always been to help people connect with the world we live in, linking our human understanding of time with the natural cycles that underpin it. Without giving too much away, the new feature should further that goal⁠—on a global scale⁠—as well as making the app more useful day-to-day.

What has been your experience creating apps on Android and distributing them through Google Play? 

I was drawn to developing for Android specifically by unique platform features, like widgets and live wallpapers, that I wanted to include in my early apps. As my portfolio has grown, I’ve continued to leverage such features into apps that wouldn’t be possible anywhere except Android. I think that’s what’s kept me on the platform for the last 10 years: the unique possibilities that it offers. 

Source: Android


How Google Play works

There are more than 2.5 billion active Android devices worldwide—and that number is growing. A major force behind that growth is Google Play, the global online content store that brings incredible apps, games and digital content to Android users everywhere.

Today we are publishing the “How Google Play Works” report, a comprehensive look under the hood at how the Play Store operates, focusing on how we keep users safe and how we support developers and help them build sustainable global businesses. 

At Android Dev Summit 2019, we announced that there were over 116 billion downloads from Google Play in the last 12 months. With such scale comes an enormous responsibility to respect and protect everyone involved—both the people downloading the apps, and the developers creating them.

This is why we continually review our Google Play developer policies, which cover topics ranging from bullying and harassment to malware. It’s why we try to scan all apps being installed with Play Protect, even apps that don’t come from Play. It’s also why we invest heavily in helping to make developers successful in sustainable ways that respect our users and their devices.

Creating a global platform for everyone and providing useful tools for developers has been our goal since we launched the very first Android device. 

As content and devices evolve, so will the Google Play Store, and we look forward to bringing developers and users the very best digital discovery and store experience. 

Please visit our How Google Play Works report site at android.com/play/how-google-play-works.