Google Play suspended an Android app and probably lost a developer
How an app store may potentially lose all of its developers
It happened on the 9th of January that, aftter publishing version 2.9.0, my Android application AutoBluetooth has been suspended by Google Play. The reason: it has infringed one of the Google Developer policies. An email by Google Play pointed out which comma of the policies has been infringed.
REASON FOR REMOVAL: Violation of the impersonation or deceptive behavior provisions of the Content Policy. Please refer to the impersonation policy help article for more information.
Not a word about what part or feature of my app exactly infringed the policy nor which sub-point was not satisfied in version 2.9.0 (and the policy contained a lot of points).
Impersonation or Deceptive Behavior: Don’t pretend to be someone else, and don’t represent that your app is authorized by or produced by another company or organization if that is not the case. Products or the ads they contain also must not mimic functionality or warnings from the operating system or other apps. Products must not contain false or misleading information in any content, title, icon, description, or screenshots. Developers must not divert users or provide links to any other site that mimics or passes itself off as another app or service. Apps must not have names or icons that appear confusingly similar to existing products, or to apps supplied with the device (such as Camera, Gallery or Messaging).
from Google Play Developer policies at https://play.google.com/intl/en/about/developer-content-policy.html
I read it several times, each time ending with suggestions only in my mind, never with certainties. AutoBluetooth was in the Google Play store since 2 years ago (more or less) and i spent a lot of my free time on that. Lately i updated it to the new Material Design and added a lot of the feature requests i received from customers.
I appealed to the suspension in the hope to have AutoBluetooth back to the store after a re-review. If the appeal confirms that it was infringing the above policy (very likely) i could only publish it with another package name, loosing all application statistics and the possibility to perform customer support.
In the discussion about the approaches followed by Apple and Google in their stores, i always considered the on that Google picked more developers friendly. It allows developers to react quickly to bugs and user requests without the need to go through a store validation that may potentially take a lot of days. The chance to lose all the work done over time with the only opportunity to appeal made me think about what’s the best approach and the real benefit for small developers (at least) to invest in Google Play.
What if i had spent money in advertising to achieve momentum for AutoBluetooth? What if i decided to make my day with AutoBluetooth? Or, even worse, to hire someone to help me develop AutoBluetooth? The answer is quite simple: everything would be gone (probably, i’m waiting for the appeal).
Update 13th January 2015
Today AdMob sent me an email to notify that my advertising unit linked to AutoBluetooth has been disabled. What is surprising is that they provided a “Violation explanation”:
GOOGLE PLAY REMOVAL: AdMob publishers are not permitted to abuse or promote the abuse of any Google product, such as Google Play, YouTube, or Blogger. This includes circumventing, or providing the means to circumvent, the policies or terms of these or other Google products, such as by allowing users to download YouTube videos.
This made me think that the reason for removal is related to activity performed through AdMob. In any case i used AdMob to just display ads on my app to generate some revenue. No customization has been done, i always used it as Google provided to me. So, how can i promote misuse of Google products?
Update 14th January 2015
Google accepted my appeal and let me republish AutoBluetooth without loosing any statistics. At the end this little “adventure” had small impact on me. Surely things would change for a larger company/group. The feeling i had in this story is that Google is running bots for security checks which suspend applications if find something wrong or not understood (but which may be compliant to policies). I read other people had their app suspended and declined any appeal in 2/3 hours, leaving a bitter feeling in their mouth. I have been lucky or good at describing my situation, i don’t know exactly.I write below the appeal i sent to Google, you may find it helpful in case your app is suspended too.
Version 2.9 has been suspended while previous were not. 2.9 is just a minor update with an additional feature similar to one implemented long ago and available in previous versions. The only point I can suggest infringing the policy (I’m not sure since you didn’t specify any detail) are: 1) Link to external website 2) App icon I consider point 1 as not infringing since links are only pointing to help pages and URL clearly states they reside on my personal website (so I’m not even impersonating someone else) Point 2 may infring since app icon I similar to standarf Bluetooth icon. It is anyway the same since version 1.0. I sincerely hope that you will agree with me and can reactive my app at least with version 2.8.7. Providing details about the infringement I can upload a new 2.9.0 apk . I hope you won’t force me upload again the app with another package name, that would break any user support. The would sincerely push me toward other distribution channels.
Update 19th January 2015
I tried to appeal for the admob unit removal but i didn’t succeed. Don’t know why since i won over the originating reason. So i had to use a new advertising unit and update the app just for that. No revenue for a couple of days more (depending on how fast the update spread)
Update 24th February 2015
As suggested by a reader there’s a petition that every developer should sign to show to Google how badly they are managing this particular task. The petition can be found here and i invite anyone to read and sign it.