Remember when Google made you start using your real-life name on your Google account? Remember how much you, and everybody else, hated that?
Google doesn’t. At least, that’s the only conclusion we can draw from an upcoming change to the terms and conditions of the Google Play Store.
This change will mean that any and all app developers with an app listed on Google’s Android marketplace must display a registered address where they can be contacted. This is a fairly standard business practice in the real world, with offices of any company you can name being discoverable with a simple web search.
The problem here arises with the nature of app development. Many developers are independent. Many of these developers work out their bedroom or home office. What this change in rules means is that ordinary people selling apps made as a hobby for £0.69 must reveal their personal home address to the entirety of the internet.
Obviously it’s a fantastic idea that Android devs are being subjected to a greater deal of accountability – this should go a fair way to cutting down on the amount of spam, knockoffs and malware that plague the Google Play Store. But why is the information not simply submitted to Google and verified in private? Why must it be displayed to the whole world? As journalists, we can’t imagine ever having to put our home addresses at the end of every article we write. Street vendors would never tell their customer their home address every time they sell a bag of oranges. The person serving you a burger behind the counter at McDonald’s doesn’t have their personal living details written on their name tag.
It seems like Google simply hasn’t thought the ramifications of this change through, and the result could be hugely damaging to the growth and vibrance of the Android app scene should all the smaller developers decide their labour of love simply isn’t worth the risk any more.
And before you say anything, Google has confirmed that P.O. boxes are not acceptable. The address must be a physical building.
No such plans are in the works for Microsoft or Apple, nor other virtual retailers such as Etsy and eBay. The reason Google alone is making this change is because it is the developers who are listed as the sellers on the Play Store, not Google itself.
In comparison, on the iOS App Store and the Windows Phone Store it is Apple and Microsoft who are officially listed as the sellers. In turn, they then pay on royalties to the developers who list their apps with them. Due to the high levels of curation and supervision that Apple and Microsoft preside over within their app stores, they in turn take responsibility for their listed apps. Google takes a much more laissez-faire approach.
The change will come into effect on September 30th, so any devs wishing to stay listed on the Google Play Store must comply by then.