This week we got an email from Google about our demo game Adventure Text that we had released to the public ten or so days before on the Google Play Store.
The game was removed from the Play Store with this email being the only notification after the fact. The public couldn’t see it, couldn’t search for it, and any live links from promotional material wouldn’t connect through to it. If this was a commercial product or even one that I had a vested interest in it would have been a small disaster. Those first few days of a game release are critical for generating user interest.
The reason that the app was removed was because we had included the Unity plugins for Analytics and Advertising in the packages that it was compiled with. Our app is a demo of a Text Adventure framework we built as a side project and we did not use either of these packages. They were included in our base build of the project by default even though we had the Enable Analytics switch turned off when we created the project.
One or both of these packages was capturing either user data or Android Advertiser ID’s in the background. Because we were not actively using the packages and did not capture any user data as part of our application we were kind of stumped. We did a bit of Google Foo and found that a common source was the Unity packages for Analytics and Monetization. Here they are in the project folder (below) – was kind of obvious once you look but since we weren’t using them in any of our code I figured they would not be included in the final package (just like unused assets). Wrong!
You can read more about the Google Play policies for Privacy in the Developer Policy Center (see Advertising and User Data Privacy). There is also more information available in the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement.
We rebuilt the game and uploaded another release to the Developer Console and in a few hours the app was again available on the Google Play Store. Phew. Cool. Problem solved.
I cannot endorse or even suggest that it’s a good idea to grab something off the internet that is a legally binding policy so please do your research on this subject before you leap into it.
Once you get your policy in place it needs to go somewhere on your web site so that it’s publicly available.
It also needs to be available in your Google Play Store Listing. If we wanted to use one it would go down the bottom in the Google Play Developer Console:
People’s privacy and the data you collect from your applications and games is an important topic. Both ethically and practically.
Maybe even if you didn’t include these packages it would be a good idea to have one anyway. It’s totally ok for app developers to gather information that’s going to enable them to make a better product and I think most game developers include either analytics and advertising in their games. It’s unfortunate that Unity includes these packages in the default project build without really making the end user aware of it but if you look it’s plain to see. Also if you are informed and have read all the Google Play Store policies that are there to protect everyone then it shouldn’t be too hard to put it all together.