Google's Application Checking Failure

Dear Google, Your Application Policy Checker Sucks

Did that get anyone's attention?  For anyone who is familiar with my website, you will recognize that there isn't any other blog posting that is found.  My site has always been geared towards DIY and educational material, but this time I had to break the norm to comment on something that really put me over the edge.  

Developing a Free Application For a Website That I Frequent

 I have been an active member of an online automotive community for about 4 years now, and after spending so much time on the site, I decided that it would be a fun project to develop an application for the Android system to help users access the site from their phones.  At the time, there was no mobile version of the site that was user friendly, so this was going to be a great way for me to venture out into the world of mobile development, and teach myself a new skill in Android programming.  The application was released about two years ago and proved to be a success!  


By the second year, my application had reached close to 1700 downloads with nearly 1000 current installations.  I was excited and I felt very accomplished.  I didn't mind that I was doing the work for free, since I was refining a skill in the process, and having fun doing it.

Update to the Latest SDK They Said...It Would Be Fun They Said

Recently, I decided that I needed to revamp the application.  I had originally intended for this app to support Android 2.0 devices so that I would hit the entire spectrum of Android users.  At the time that I started development, Honeycomb had been out but the user base was very limited.  Eventually my application started to look dated, and I really wanted to take advantage of the newest features.  I spent a solid week redesigning the application.  The core functionality stayed the same, but I really started to harness the power of the latest SDK, targeting Android 4.0 applications.  I had eventually released the update to the Play Store, and was exited to see the feedback from the userbase.

Got Some Feedback ... Not The Good Kind

After a few days, and getting feedback from one of my users, I suddenly saw an email flow into my wonderful Gmail box.  It was from Google.  For some, there might be excitement, but I had a bad feeling.  I opened the email, and immediately was caught in a state of confusion, which then proceeded to disappointment and frustration.

 I was outright confused.  What does this even mean??  I took a look at the cited policy, and couldn't find anything that made any sense.  My application has no paid features, doesn't have adverts, doesn't have microtransactions, and the forum itself doesn't ask for money from its members.  As far as the policy is concerned, I didn't violate anything.

Donation? Only If Google Gets a Piece

After chatting up with some folks over at Reddit, I eventually came to the conclusion that the reason for my violation was a link in the Preferences of my application that linked users to paypal so that they could Donate if they wanted to.  This seemed to be commonplace for many apps that I have used over the years, but clearly this didn't seem to be the case in my application.

Fine Google, you win.  I accept that I made a mistake (i think, still not sure), but I really wish you would have given me a heads up.  Of course, now that the application is suspended, I can only upload it back to the store under a different name.  That means that everyone that has the application installed under the old name wont get update notifications.  Completely ridiculous, but since most of my userbase resides on the forum itself, I just posted a note to the page and hoped for the best.

Let's Try This Again

I went through my application, and removed all traces of the Donation link.  This includes references to donations, payments, paypal, etc.  I wanted to make sure that this time around I didn't violate the policy in any shape way or form.  I had to go through the long and grueling process of renaming the application package, but eventually got back on my feet.  I uploaded the app again to the play store, and downloads were on the way.

So back on the development train I went.  I was actually excited once again because I was making great strides in my development, increasing the responsiveness in the application, as well as reducing the toll on resources.  I was excited for my endusers to start using this version.

This Has To Be a Joke...

Fast forward to tonight, about an hour ago.  A new email had graced my inbox...again, from Google.

Wow .... the last one was understandable ... but this one?!  Sexually explicit material?  This has to be a joke, an absolute joke.  I am now sitting here tearing my hair out.  I cannot fathom why Google would target this as an app that contains explicit material.  It is as sexually explicit as Google Chrome ... you know ... one of their own applications. 

So once again, I find myself at a brick wall.  Google has suspended this app, and I can't possibly upload it again, since there is absolutely no basis behind this, so I wouldn't even know where to begin to "fix" the issue.

You Can Appeal ... If You Like Wasting Your Time

If you read the last line of the email, it mentions that you can visit a help center article that they have on information to appeal the removal.  The interesting part about that, is that it almost seems like the appeals process goes to an automated reply box.  When my application first got removed, I had sent an appeals email to Google.  I was greeted back in just a few minutes with a rejection email.  Again, one of those "thanks for trying, but nothing you can do, move along" emails.  It was nothing more than a waste of time.

The most disturbing part is that this seems to be commonplace.  After chatting it up some more on Reddit, I started to hear stories about developers left and right having their apps pulled for no good reason.  Even applications that are funded by large companies, or have historically released popular applications.  In almost every case, their appeals process was instantly denied.  One user had even mentioned that he had toured Google once, and was told that the entire process is AI driven.  There is no user interaction involved at all.  Isn't that nice...

My Challenge To Google...

I challenge Google for more detail on my violation.  This application has always been open source and has been available on GitHub since its inception.  There is no, and has not ever been any sexually explicit material in the application, and I am absolutely disgusted that their system thinks there is.

The link is right there, go ahead, click it.... download it ... compile it ... do whatever you need to .... show me that my app has explicit material.  Until then, I refuse to support Google's application development practices.  Sure, I'm one of a billion developers, and its no skin off Google's back, but hopefully this can help save one poor soul from wasting their time developing an app, for free, on their own time, for a hobby, only to have it pulled.... for no reason.

Update: Challenge Accepted

Well looks like Google listened to my appeals email.  I just recently received the following email:

I have responded to the email to see if they can fill me in on exactly what flagged their checks just so I can make sure that the issue is rectified, but I have a feeling that this is nothing more than an auto-generated email.

Update: Removed Again


Well, this is the last draw.  Looks like I survived a bit over a month since the last time I got flagged and yet here I am again.  This is completely ridiculous and I am incredibly frustrated not only because of the constant Google harassment about my application, but also the fact that they keep flagging me for 'Sexually Explicit' content which is absurd..  At this point I give up with Google and their play store and will just resort to providing my app externally for those users that want to continue to support my work.  Looks like its time to start diving into Apple's iOS development.