Every few weeks, we seem to hear a story about how an app developer is stuck with a banned account or a removed app and then running pillar to post trying to “contact a human” from Google to get more clarity on the specifics of their violation. We have covered such instances whenever we could, noting how difficult it can be to interpret guidelines correctly to figure out what Google wants and does not want. As it turns out, there are humans indeed at Google, and they claim to have listened to the frustration expressed by developers with regards to Android APIs and Google Play Store policies.
When Google began enforcing the new SMS and Call Log policies, the feedback from developers expressed frustration over the decision-making process. The common theme with the feedback can be summed up as:
- The Permission Declaration form was unclear and difficult to complete correctly.
- The review and appeal process took too long to complete.
- Decisions appeared to be automated, and it was difficult to “reach a human at Google” who could provide policy details and appreciate new use cases proposed by developers.
On the basis of these, Google has now promised to make the following changes to the process:
- Emails sent for policy rejections and appeals will now be more detailed and explanatory, touching upon why a decision was made, how the app can be modified to comply, and how the decision could be appealed.
- Appeal instructions will be included in all enforcement emails. The appeal process will also be internally reviewed and improved.
- Humans already review “every sensitive decision”. Nonetheless, Google will improve communication to be more personalized. The company will also hire more people to help accelerate the appeals process.
All of this being said, certain decisions that Google takes are against serious offenders who act with malafide intentions. Openness in such scenarios is not a possibility, as that opens up the possibility of these developers gaming the system and finding loopholes to exploit. However, for developers that do not have a track record, Google promises to spend more time to review their new apps in order to do thorough checks before approving apps that go live in the Play Store.