The Play Store is not exactly known for its security, but Google continually makes efforts to improve the overall situation. To that end, the company has now disclosed the various methodologies it used to fight malicious apps and developers in 2020, and has shared some accompanying statistics as well.
In 2020, over 100 billion installed apps were scanned by Play Protect on a daily basis. Play Protect was introduced back in 2017 to give users more visibility over Android security. With 2020 being a particularly difficult year due to growing fake news, U.S. elections, as well as people scrambling to find reliable information regarding COVID-19 and vaccines, Google took several steps to ensure that apps do not harm users via misinformation.
Among these was the requirement that apps dealing with sensitive use-cases such as displaying information about COVID-19 testing sites should meet a high-level of user data privacy and should be endorsed by government or healthcare authorities. New guidelines were introduced for apps which market themselves as "News" to improve transparency for users of the Play Store. Finally, specific teams and processes were put in place to focus on U.S. elections and to prevent related abuse via the Play Store.
Google's machine learning algorithms stopped over 962,000 apps from release on the Play Store because they violated certain policies. In the same vein, 119,000 malicious and spammy developer accounts received the banhammer.
Other enhancements include the review of all apps requesting access to location in the background and enforcing developers to provide user benefit when they request this information. Apps which do not follow these guidelines will be removed from the Play Store. Google plans to disclose more information about this process soon.
Lastly, the company also released a new tab in the Play Store containing "Teacher approved" apps, containing recommendations from academic experts and advisors.
Google says that it will continue investing in efforts that prevent malicious content from being distributed in the Play Store. The company hopes to build and sustain trust not only with users, but developers as well. It noted that its enforcement actions in the past year have resulted in increased developer satisfaction and a reduced number of appeals overall.