Groundhog Day: Google Play keeps removing apps for the same false reasons.

Google requires that apps send sensitive information over https, and it also requires that you prominently disclose what you’re doing with user data.

This ‘a good thing’. I fully support these requirements.

Unfortunately, Google keeps removing my apps from the store for breaking these rules when I 100% definitively do not.

All my Android apps offer you an option to get setup instructions sent to you by email. This is the process:

1) I offer to send you instructions. You click on the orange button ‘Yes Send me details’

2) I open up a new page where you enter your email address and click the orange button ‘Send’

You won’t be surprised that this sends your email address to my server where I use it to send you instructions.

Naturally – that data is sent over https.

Here is where it gets frustrating:

First Removal

17th May:Message from Google Play:

After review, VLC Remote, com.hobbyistsoftware.android.vlcremote_us, has been removed from Google Play because it violates our personal and sensitive information policy.

…must handle the user data securely,… (for example, over HTTPS)….Your app is not currently handling user data securely.

I wrote back to explain that yes – my app is using https. They respond to say that ‘If, after making changes, you think your app is in compliance, please submit your app for another review.’

I clarify that I’m not making any changes – because none are required and resubmit.

25th May: They respond to say

Good news – I see your app, VLC Remote (com.hobbyistsoftware.android.vlcremote_us), was resubmitted earlier and has been approved.

Second Removal

29th May: A Very Similar Message

After review, VLC Remote, … has been removed from Google Play because it violates our personal and sensitive information policy … This app won’t be available to users until you submit a compliant update.

We go through the same dance. I explain that it isn’t violating their policy. It does send the user’s email to my server, but only when explicitly asked to – and over https.

They approve the resubmission.

Seriously – Again???

6th June:

After review, VLC Remote, com.hobbyistsoftware.android.vlcremote_us (Version Code: 47963), has been removed from Google Play because it violates our personal and sensitive information policy

The focus now is on ‘Prior to the collection and transmission, it must prominently highlight how the user data will be used, describe the type of data being collected and have the user provide affirmative consent for such use.’

I’m lost for words here. Supposedly, someone has reviewed the app. And they have looked setup help process. They clicked on ‘yes send me details’ then entered their email address, clicked ‘Send’ and they consider that I haven’t been clear about what is going on.

Incidentally – I had the exact same process with VLC Streamer on 20th March.

And of course my app is off the store – and not making any sales

I’ll build again, submit again and see what happens. This is getting very boring though…

Removed again – despite already being removed, and not having resubmitted yet!

13th June:

After review, VLC Remote, … has been removed from Google Play because it violates our personal and sensitive information policy

Your app is uploading users’ email information to … without posting a privacy policy in both the designated field in the Play Developer Console and from within the Play distributed app itself. Your app must also handle user data securely, … (for example, over HTTPS).

I’m guessing that my ‘this is ridiculous’ email triggered a review.

This time, the primary objection is that the app must have ‘a privacy policy in both the designated field in the Play Developer Console and from within the Play distributed app itself’

Of course – I do.

I know this because on the 29th May, VLC Remote was removed for exactly that reason.
On the 29th of May – it was correct. I did have a privacy policy linked in the store – but it wasn’t within the app itself. This app has been up for years, and I don’t know when the requirement came in to have the privacy policy within the app.

Anyway – after the email of the 29th of May, I sent in an update which added the privacy policy into the app within the settings page. I resubmitted and was approved.

At the time, I thought it was ridiculous that Google would remove the app from the store immediately over a violation like this. They could easily have sent me an email and given me (say) 7 days to put things right.

It was more ridiculous than removing me for the same reason _after_ I have fixed the problem.

btw; In the Apple store, when you submit an app for review, there is a ‘reviewer notes’ field. You can use this to let the reviewer know anything you think is important.

For example you might let them know where the privacy policy was shown (in the settings) – or that you always upload sensitive data over https. Google has nothing like this, and clearly doesn’t keep notes on review decisions / appeals.

I’m going to respond to the latest email with a link to this blog post. We’ll see what happens.

Update 18th June

I submitted yet another appeal. This time with a google doc to explain what was going on.

The response looked like the old rejections – but in the reviewer did helpfully highlight the version number.

It turns out this is an old build uploaded in 2016 which targets users on API level 14. There are 20 active installs.

I disabled all the old versions of the app, resubmitted, and (so far) everything is live.

(Hopefully) Final Thoughts

The Apple review process can be infuriating. Apple have some rules that seem ridiculous to me, and they’re seldom flexible about applying them. However, they communicate clearly – as real people. When there is a minor issue, they’ll ask you to fix it rather than just booting you out of the store. They also seem able to keep notes about previous discussions and if they have resolved one issue – they won’t come back to it again.

By contrast – Google make it seem like you’re dealing with a badly programmed Eliza-Bot.

There is no context in their replies – they just bang out the same template letters with no acknowledgement of any points, requests or comments you have made.

I’m wondering if they are forbidden from sending out personalised emails – and have to resort to highlighting as the only marginally personal communication method available to them.

I never got any acknowledgement that the first four removal reasons were completely without merit. But my app spent weeks out of the store because of them.

The final rejection felt like they were scraping the barrel to justify the removal – and although it was probably true (I haven’t checked) – the particular version was only used by 20 devices, and had been in place since 2016, so they could have either disabled that one version, or approved the app and asked me to do that within (say) 7 days.

This whole process was deeply frustrating – and in the end, no changes have been made to the builds which triggered the first bunch of rejections.

Chill Remote – New Remote Control for Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime

I have been meaning to build this app for years!

I built VLC Remote when I got fed up having to get up of the sofa to change what was playing on VLC.

For the last few years – I have been using Netflix and Amazon Prime more than VLC – so now I’m back to getting off the sofa to control my computer.

Chill Remote finally fixes that 🙂

If you’re watching Netflix, Amazon Prime or YouTube using Chrome on a PC or Mac – Then Chill remote gives you remote control.

Chill Remote is currently in Beta. You can sign up to use it for free at https://ChillRemote.tv

New App for Mac: AV Rules

When I connect my projector, I want my mac to switch to 1080p.

When I connect my TV, I want it to run at 720p

When hdmi audio output is available, I want my mac to use that (and to use all the channels too!)

Previously, my Mac mini didn’t do a great job of switching, so I wrote AV Rules to take charge.

rules


Buy Now

Say it with Poop !

 

iOS 10 brings the ability to use apps within iMessage.

You can read all about how it works here

What better way to make use of the new animated stickers – than with some charming animated poops!

waving poop

You can get them at the store for $0.99


Buy Now

enjoy!

Windows Store is still rubbish

Back in 2105, the Windows store decided to unpublish VLC Remote after I submitted an update.

I ran a competition to try to figure out why they had banned it. This attracted some media attention which ultimately resulted in a  Windows Developer Platform manager contacting me. He quickly got some people on the case and the app was restored.

About three weeks later, I needed to update the description. The same thing happened again. Again, the same chap kicked some butt in the store and got the update approved.

A year or so later, and I have had a request from Microsoft to fill in their age rating questionnaire.

Of course – this requires submitting a new update, and of course the exact same problem is hitting. (Note – the app, and its description and screenshots are completely unchanged)

App Policies: 10.1 Inaccurate Representation, Title

Your app and its associated metadata must accurately and clearly reflect the source, functionality, and features of your app.

  • <snip – list of policies>

Notes To Developer

The app name does not accurately represent the app.
For more information see Windows Store Policy 10.1 at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=620446.

This time, I haven’t had a response from the program manager (he has probably moved on in disgust)

I have resubmitted with a link to the original story, but have just had a somewhat meaningless response

Hello Rob,

Thank you for the follow up and I am showing that app under that account. Now I also reviewed over the listing and I would suggest contacting report app from the email below as they will be bale to assist you directly on the certification.

Report App: reportapp@microsoft.com

If you have any questions or concerns, please respond to this e-mail and we will work to resolve them as quickly as possible.

I don’t think this will help – clearly the issue is nothing to do with me reporting an infringement, or anyone else reporting an infringement. The issue is that every time I submit an update, Microsoft do the same brain-dead thing.

I’m going to try one more submission with the ‘do not fail… escalate to…’ note…

I guess Windows Store is dying, and Microsoft just want to clear out the few remaining apps.

Introducing File Getter for iOS

File Getter makes it really easy to get files onto your iDevice.

File Getter logo

iOS makes it fairly easy for apps to send files to other apps – but can be a massive pain getting those files onto your device in the first place.

File Getter makes that easy.

Now you simply install a helper on your PC or Mac. When you’re on your home wifi, File Getter can connect to that helper and access any file.

Once you have the file on your device – it’s easy to send it to other apps.

You can send a book to iBooks, a movie to VLC, an image to facebook, or a powerpoint file to Pages.

No cables, no fuss.

File Getter is initially available for only $0.99

Buy Now

download image

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2 Minute Timer now with Force Touch

2 Minute timer was my first app.

It is a very simple timer app which aims to work with a minimum of fuss.

You can now start a timer and pick the timer length on new devices using force touch.

More info here

2min