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Google tightens restrictions on Android app ads

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Android app developers have a new set of rules for what content in-app ads can display, according to Google's recently-updated Google Play Developer Program Policy.

Developers are being alerted of the policy changes via an email from the Google Play team, which can be read in full here. Full details on changes to handling ads can be found under a new subsection of the Google Play Developer Program Policy, called App Promotion.

The tightened ad restrictions are meant to crack down on the appearance of deceptive and untrustworthy ads. Under the new ruleset, developers are responsible for making sure the ads networks they use or affiliates aren't promoting shady ads within their apps. Apps on Google Play must not promote through deceptive ads on websites, other apps or app notifications. Developers also cannot redirect users to Google Play or the app's download page without information them and unsolicited promotion via text messages is also prohibited without explicit user consent. Under these guidelines, developers who directly or indirectly are involved in or benefit from these tactics could come under fire.

Additionally, ad networks are prohibited from simulating an app's UI or notification message or the warning elements of an operating system — a design trick that can confuse and mislead users. It must be clear to users what app an ad is associated with. Wording within the content policy has also been tweaked, reinforcing the ban on ads referencing explicit or erotic material and content that is potential harmful to the system. Apps that contain or link to viruses and modify browser settings also also banned.

Furthermore, developers must be clear with users when implementing in-app purchases, how much they cost and what they are used for. They must also disclose when in-app purchases are used to generate revenue and explain what in-app features require these charges.

Polygon recently spoke with with Google Play about recent updates to its game services and the Google Play app designed to make Android more user and developer-friendly. Google Play Games lead product manager Greg Hartrell said Android developers are seeking "higher monetization rates" and longer play sessions for users, and noted that the company paid more than four times to Android app developers in 2013 what it did in 2012.