We Fought Google and We Won

We Fought Google and We Won

We are proud to announce that we are back on the Google Play Store. Back in February, about 2 weeks after launch of our production release, Google decided to remove us unilaterally with literally no rhyme or reason stated other than that we were violating their new user data policies.

A week ago we were finally reinstated. Why? It took over 200 emails and the release of 9 separate app updates to get this result. Almost every email we received from Google just kept reiterating the same cut-and-pasted paragraphs from their, at most, completely oblique policies guides. They seemed intent on continuing the back and forth until I pointed out that they haven’t pushed either Messenger or WhatsApp to make the same alterations to their software in order to achieve compliance on their platform. It was even more mystifying as our app was already GDPR-Compliant.

Right in the middle of this Amazon swooped in and fast-tracked us onto their App Store, which was a lifesaver, I must confess. After making continuous tweaks to the app and the incessant back and forth we finally managed to get together a user data policy flow that fits Google’s protocols. Throughout the process Google made it abundantly clear that they really just didn’t care and had no interest in actually trying to help the situation. Conversely, every conversation with Amazon was useful and informative and moved the process along.

Amazon App Store, despite being fully integrated into the Amazon family, lacks the overall beautiful design of Google Play Store and thanks to Google’s super predatory, anti-competitive practices, just getting people to adopt an app from Amazon App Store is next to impossible. In order to get an app downloaded from Amazon, you first have to teach people how to download the apk from their website and then get passed all of Google’s scary on-handset messaging that’s trying to scare people into believing anything not Google is dangerous. This is anti-competitive behaviour and constitutes blatant predatory practices. Interesting that Microsoft got sued for this and summarily slapped by the EU for these very practices when they used to insist on the default usage IE over any other browser back in the 90’s. Google are just doing the same thing but everyone is ignoring it.

But anyway back to the good news. We’re now back on Google Play Store and if you’re having the same problems get in contact as we now know how to get passed this particular issue.

So…how do you make your app compliant? What does all their user data policy voodoo and witchcraft actually mean? It all starts with your app launch. Your app should adopt the following user data policy dialog flow and content:

  1. Initial Loading Screen (SplashActivity.java)
    1. include button (“Privacy Policy” or “Tap to Start”)
  2. Tapping button launches ‘User Data Policy’ modal
    1. User Data Policy{COMPANY_NAME} built the {APP_NAME} app as a consumer and commercial app. This Service is provided by {COMPANY_NAME} at no cost and is intended for use as is. This page is used to inform visitors regarding our policies with the collection, use, and disclosure of Personal Information if anyone decided to use our Service.If you choose to use our Service, then you agree to the collection and use of information in relation to this policy. The Personal Information that we collect is used for providing and improving the Service. We will not distribute, use, share or sell your information with anyone except as described in this Privacy Policy.The terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, which is accessible at <a href=\”APP_PRIVACY_POLICY_LINK” target=\”_blank\”> our site</a> unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy.

      Information Collection and Use
      For a better experience, while using our Service, we may require you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information, including but not limited to contacts in your phonebook, your phone number and your profile picture. The information that we request will be securely saved on our secure servers. We will never share this information without your permission.

      Your name, number, and your profile picture will be available publicly to other users. The app does use third party services that may collect information used to identify you. Link to privacy policy of third party service providers used by the app <a href=\”https://www.google.com/policies/privacy/\” target=\”_blank\”>Google Play Services</a>

      Log Data
      We want to inform you that whenever you use our Service, in a case of an error in the app we collect data and information (through third party products) on your phone called Log Data. This Log Data may include information such as your device internet protocol (“IP”) address, device name, operating system version, the configuration of the app when utilising our Service, the time and date of your use of the Service, and other statistics.

      Permissions we Request
      Contacts: to be able to communicate with your Friends that are in your Contacts
      Camera: to be able to Take Pictures/Videos and to be able to make Video Calls.
      Microphone: to be able to send Voice Messages and also to be able to make Voice/Video Calls.
      Storage: to save the Sent/Received Files in your Device

      Cookies
      Cookies are files with a small amount of data that are commonly used as anonymous unique identifiers. These are sent to your browser from the websites that you visit and are stored on your device’s internal memory.

      This Service does not use these “cookies” explicitly. However, the app may use third party code and libraries that use “cookies” to collect information and improve their services. You have the option to either accept or refuse these cookies and know when a cookie is being sent to your device. If you choose to refuse our cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of this Service.

      Service Providers
      We may employ third-party companies and individuals due to the following reasons:
      – to facilitate our Service;
      – to provide the Service on our behalf;
      – to perform Service-related services; or
      – to assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

      We want to inform users of this Service that these third parties have access to your Personal Information. The reason is to perform the tasks assigned to them on our behalf. However, they are obligated not to disclose or use the information for any other purpose.

      Security
      We value your trust in providing us your Personal Information, thus we are striving to use commercially acceptable means of protecting it. But remember that no method of transmission over the internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure and reliable, and I cannot guarantee its absolute security.

      Links to Other Sites
      This Service may contain links to other sites. If you click on a third-party link, you will be directed to that site. Note that these external sites are not operated by me. Therefore, we strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of these websites. We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies, or practices of any third-party sites or services.

      Children’s Privacy
      These Services do not address anyone under the age of 13. We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13. In the case we discover that a child under 13 has provided us with personal information, we immediately delete this from our servers. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your child has provided us with personal information, please contact us so that we will be able to expunge them from our servers.

      Changes to This Privacy Policy
      We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. Thus, you are advised to review this page periodically for any changes. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page. These changes are effective immediately after they are posted on this page.

      Contact Us
      If you have any questions or suggestions about our Privacy Policy, do not hesitate to contact us at privacy@insert-your-email.com

    2. include checkbox (“By checking this, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this Privacy Policy”)
  3. Request User Permissions (Only Mandatory for App Operation)
    1. Contacts List – so user can send and receive messages to users on contact list
    2. Storage – so user can store message content
  4. Proceed to Normal App Logic

Follow this flow and content and you should have no problem getting your app onto Google Play Store. Personally, I’d recommend ensuring you load your app to Amazon App Store. Always good to have some backup and it helps to fight that predatory behaviour of Google. Please feel free to check us out on our platforms and we’ll never say no to a like, share or follow.

Don’t forget to check us out on Product Hunt: https://www.producthunt.com/posts/vox-messenger-secure

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