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​Android apps: Google bans cryptocurrency miners from Play Store

Google bans on-device cryptocurrency-mining apps from the Play Store, plus those that impersonate brands.

Video: Google gets tough on cryptocurrency-mining apps in the Play Store

After Apple's recent ban on cryptocurrency-mining apps in the iOS App Store and Mac App Store, Google has now banned them from the Android Play Store too.

Google's policy is similar to Apple's which still allows mining if the processing happens in the cloud, but on-device mining on Android hardware is now banned.

"We don't allow apps that mine cryptocurrency on devices. We permit apps that remotely manage the mining of cryptocurrency," Google said in its updated Google Play policy centre document.

"Mining: Apps may not mine for cryptocurrencies unless the processing is performed off device (e.g. cloud-based mining)," says one of Apple's cryptocurrency policies.

The ban on cryptocurrency miners in the Play Store follows a Google block on cryptomining extensions on the Chrome Web Store, following the rise in CoinHive-based in-browser miners. It stopped accepting new cryptomining extensions in April, and delisted them in June, altering its previous policy that allowed cryptominers as long as they sufficiently explained their purpose. It banned them outright after finding that 90 percent of the mining extension failed to inform users of their mining functionality. The changes to Google Play policy were first spotted by Android Police.

Apple's clamp down on cryptocurrencies covered both potential damage they can cause to the hardware, such as battery drain and excessive heat, restricted ICOs (initial coin offerings) to established banks, and outlawed apps that offer cryptocurrency in exchange for other actions such as downloading other apps or posting promotions for them on social networks.

Google has also outlawed repetitive apps on the Play Store.

"We don't allow apps that merely provide the same experience as other apps already on Google Play. Apps should provide value to users through creation of unique content or services."

So, there's to be no more copying content from other apps without adding original content or value, and no more uploading several apps with basically the same content and user experience.

SEE: How blockchain will disrupt business (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

It's also saying no to apps created by automated tools or templates apps on behalf of other persons. The apps will only be allowed if they're published by an individually registered developer who may use an automated tool. In other words, automated apps-as-a-service isn't something Google wants its store to be filled with.

It also won't allow apps that are simply made to show ads, such as apps that shows full page ads every time a user clicks or interacts with the app in some other way. Google has also added a new ban on apps that "appeal to children but contain adult themes".

Finally, it's clamping down on fake apps or apps that impersonate any person or organization. Just yesterday security firm ESET warned Google of three fake banking apps impersonating Indian banks that were designed to phish credit card number and online banking credentials using bogus forms and then leaked them online in plaintext.

The question now is how well Google can police its new policies, but at least third-party researchers and end-users can report instances to Google, which can then take action.

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