Pushbullet says it has to fight Play Store automated moderation to survive on Android

Pushbullet says it has to fight Play Store automated moderation to survive on Android

As the official Android™ app store, you might think that Play Store will be the main resource for Best Android Apps. While there are many third-party application hubs that act as a file alternative For the Play Store, most Android app developers prioritize Google’s offering due to the sheer size of the audience. But with size in mind, it’s no secret that the company has had to rely on artificial intelligence to make some judgment calls about app approval and pruning. But As we’ve seen beforeThere are downsides to this reliance on machine learning and artificial intelligence models to keep track of guidelines violations. The latest victim of the mentioned downsides, Pushbullet, brings up her story.


The founder and CEO of the productivity-oriented app, Ryan Oldenburg, has painted it The team’s experience on the Play Store since June 2020 with Google’s automated systems sent a total of seven breach notifications as of this week for supposedly minor or nearly nonexistent violations of Pushbullet’s privacy policy disclosure. While the development team didn’t think much of the initial few notifications, it quickly became apparent with the so-called breaches turning out to be the result of an AI that wasn’t very smart.

Oldenburg received its first infringement notice “suddenly” on June 9, 2020. In the notice (pictured below), Google requires the developer to have a valid privacy policy and a prominent disclosure about publishing users’ contact information on Pushbullet’s servers.

Accepting that this might be a genuine breach on Pushbullet’s part, the team pushed an update with the required changes. Pushbullet’s comparison gives us an excellent idea of ​​what really changed between the old and new versions.

Fast forward to July 7, 2021, when a small update pushed by the developer received a disapproval notice from Google, stating that the developer had not mentioned the privacy policy in the app and on the Play Developer Console. The developers then discovered that there is no privacy policy link within the page that allows users to disable or enable SMS syncing. After making the required changes, the update is approved.

To Pushbullet’s surprise and frustration, another small update they tried to push was rejected two weeks later for the same reason. Unable to understand the nature of the breach, the team decided to create a dedicated privacy policy page that mentions the SMS sync feature and even stores the page locally within the APK to avoid any potential network related issues. This appears to have temporarily fixed Pushbullet’s privacy policy issue.

The developers received another surprise notice on February 12, 2022, which did not come in response to the latest app update. But the breach was almost the same as the previous one, leading the developer to invoke a dialog forcing users to manually confirm disclosures related to the collection of SMS and contacts data (pictured below). Pushbullet has also moved the SMS Privacy Policy link towards the top of the screen for good measure. Unsurprisingly, Google agreed to the changes.

Another notice arrives on May 15, with similar violations as the others, but this time regarding SMS log information. At the loss of solutions, the company simply proceeded to increase the text size of the in-app privacy policy link and successfully submitted the update.

More time passed until another scary notice arrived earlier this month claiming that the privacy policy disclosure is not mentioned in the Play Console. To remedy this, the developer has decided to write a new policy that combines all disclosures while also referring to them in the Play Console. The update was then submitted by the Pushbullet team and later approved.

The last notice came on October 26 (shown below). This time around, the team was fond of not providing a disclosure of when email addresses were sent to Pushbullet’s servers while using a Google account to sign in. As Oldenburg notes, this is a very strange crime to be called because the app hasn’t had these violations reported in the previous weeks or months.

Pushbullet acknowledges that it may receive additional notices in the future and is willing to stay on top of it to ensure that users continue to access its services. Oldenburg had a bleak outlook for the future, however, saying that developers had no choice but to continue making small changes to appease the automation model before reintroducing their apps because they risk losing a significant portion of their earnings if the app is removed from the Play Store. Maybe he’s right and that’s the cost of doing business with Google. However, responding to policy violation notices may be a greater burden for small or independent developers.

It is worth noting that Pushbullet dropped its iOS app in January 2020 for similar reasons on the part of Apple as mentioned on Reddit Mail. Meanwhile, the Pushbullet Chrome Extension I also had a problem from Google 2 years ago.

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