Google Play Policy Adds To Subscription Transparency, Location Limits

Google has now updated the policy surrounding apps allowed in its Play Store to ensure transparency in subscription services and limits on location tracking. That’s based on recent reports stemming from Google’s Android Developers Blog. The former change won’t arrive for a couple of months, giving developers more time to implement changes. But it will undoubtedly prove a popular alteration for users who want to save a bit of money.

That’s because the policy update will fundamentally alter how developers are required to present subscriptions to end-users. Google says that its underlying goal is to ensure clarity in those subscriptions on offer in apps. Namely, the company wants end-users to understand upfront what all of the terms are. That applies not just to introductory offers and free trials. But it also applies to subscription management.

Clarity will need to not only be provided upfront, including subscription benefits, costs, billing frequency, and benefits. That will also need to include a way for users to easily dismiss offers at sign-up as well as the procedure for cancellation.

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The Google Play Store will continue to handle reminders regarding renewals of subscriptions bought through apps it manages. But the new policy will ensure developers are doing their part to eliminate confusion too.

Limiting location tracking for Google Play apps will keep user data safer

The second change in policy was already announced alongside the initial rollout of the Android 11 Developer Preview. That’s a change enforcing background location tracking practices that better comport with the requirements of an app.

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The goal here is to assuage growing concerns over the past couple of years about applications tracking users’ locations needlessly. Now, apps will need a clear and definite reason to be tracking a user’s location when the app isn’t in active use. More directly, apps will need Google’s direct permission to do so.

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Google has provided some examples of permitted use of always-on location data tracking. Those won’t necessarily appeal to everybody since social networking apps and similar will still have access, once users grant that permission. Tools meant to broadcast an emergency alert with location information will still work too. But apps that don’t necessarily need that information to function normally will not.

When, exactly, are these changes set to take effect?

The changes in Google Play policy to ensure subscription management is easier for Android users and ending constant location tracking for some apps aren’t going to take effect immediately. Developers will undoubtedly want to get the jump on rolling them out but aren’t required to do that until June 16.

Similarly, new apps on the Google Play Store will need to comply with background data tracking policies by August. Those that don’t hold to the policy when submitted with summarily be denied.

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Existing apps on the Play Store are being granted a bit more leeway to provide time to implement changes. That will benefit both end-users and developers. But those that don’t comply by November will be removed from the app market. That’s been the case with all apps that violate these types of policies, including recent changes that are arriving with Android 11.

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