Taking a tougher stance on unethical apps

File photo pf a man using his phones.

PETALING JAYA, Kuala Lumpur - The Android operating system has grown by leaps and bounds from the time it was unveiled back in 2007. The amount of support that the operating system has been garnering from developers has been overwhelming, judging by the rapid growth of the Google Play which now offers users almost a million apps for download.

The main source to download apps for Android devices, Google Play has a wide range of free and paid apps and games ranging from the brilliant to downright dumb and useless. Some can even be harmful to your device.

Hence, users should really exercise a certain degree of caution and level of intelligence when downloading apps. While Google makes an effort to control the quality and security of the apps on Google Play, some rogue apps are still able to slip past.

Some of these harmful apps may contain viruses or malicious content that can hurt your Android device, while the less dangerous but the more common and annoying ones, are filled with spyware or adware.

And when an app seems too good to be true, it most probably is.

Don't expect an app that promises you the secrets to get rich quick, or one that offers erotic videos of scantily clad girls to be without any hidden intentions or threats.

If these aren't prank apps, they're most likely apps that are secretly leeching something out of your device without your knowledge. If it isn't sending out your information stored in your phone, it is sending in ads or viruses to your device.

Users can usually identify apps with questionable intent prior to installing an app. Apps are always required to ask for permissions before users install them, and users can scrutinise if an app is seeking more than is required. For example, it wouldn't make sense for a wallpaper app to require access to your phonebook.

Sadly, many do not take the time or effort to go through the list of permissions that the apps are requesting, similar to the cases of people who just agree to terms and conditions without bothering to read them.

One thing that annoys me when I'm using my smartphone are apps that blasts advertisements to the notification bar. Such apps will appear as a notification and will usually ask you to click on it, and in doing so, will take you to some weird website or a download page of some other app.

We could not complain as this was technically acceptable as Google did not disallow developers from adding that feature into their apps.

In such cases, I had used the Addons Detector, an app which was specially designed to find apps with push notification and icon ads, to identify and eliminate such apps.

Updated developer policy

However, there will no longer be a need for apps such as Addons Detector as Google has updated their Google Play developer policy to disable push notification ads from being hidden in apps.

The updated developer policy also now prohibits apps with misleading information in their description.

And apps are no longer allowed to confuse users by imitating other existing apps. In this regard, I've come across many apps from small developers that have tried to ride on the fame of top apps.

One clear example is Rovio Entertainment's hit game Angry Birds. Many other developers have released apps posing to offer "different versions' of the popular game, trying to fool unsuspecting users. And users searching for the game on the Google Play, are bombarded by these different versions. The new update also warns developers against manipulating product ratings or reviews. This includes unauthorised means such as fraudulent installs, paid or fake reviews or ratings, or offering incentives to rate their apps.

Another update is the ban on the use of irrelevant, misleading, or excessive keywords in an app description. This form of spamming has always annoyed me and this is a welcome update for me.

With these updates, users will be better protected against unethical developers and their apps.