Tuesday, January 17th, 2023

I haven’t had much of a chance to write about Google. I don’t like Google. Unfortunately, like most people, I don’t have much of a choice. You have some alternate options for search engines and there are other email services you can use. However, if you develop mobile apps, you have no choice. You could write solely for iOS (which has its own set of problems), but you would limit the scope of who you can serve.

The biggest problem is that Google will arbitrarily change their “Terms and Conditions” and they’ll kick your app out of the Google Play Store without warning you before it happens. They did that to me recently for an app I created for a local medical services company. Let me briefly describe how this app works. A customer comes in and they give an employee their driver’s license. The employee enters their information and verifies a couple of things. The program then generates a PIN which the employee gives to the customer. The customer downloads the app and enters the PIN. This allows them to complete a health history survey. They also sign their signature with their finger at the very end. This effectively checks them in and they wait for a technician to assist them. The PIN is no longer active after successfully completing a survey.

It worked almost flawlessly since May of 2022. But, in January 2023, Google made one of their magic “Terms and Conditions” updates. They randomly tested my app, found a violation and kicked it out of the store. What terms did they change? Google now demands that the credentials you provided them always work and never expire. Remember, this is NOT an Angry Birds leaderboard. This is a medical app with a very specific function. It does not use permanent passwords because the customer will (likely) uninstall the app. A user/password is unnecessary since a customer cannot access the app unless they have an appointment and are physically present on site. The PIN system works perfectly.

Google, with their inability to understand that apps sometimes do not conform to their limited worldview, makes arbitrary decisions that ban apps from their store. After that, they twist the knife and talk to you like you are a 5-year-old who is incapable of understanding what should be intuitively obvious. I filed an appeal that explained the workflow of the app and why their rule change is deleterious. “Jenny”, the Google Play employee (whose name is probably not Jenny), would only say that she is sorry that my app violates their terms of service and she gives me a hyperlink to the almost 4,000 word “Terms of Service” document.

Knowing that I’ve lost this battle, and the fact that my client had to buy some Android tablets (where I manually installed the app), I made a code change on my server application just to fool Google. I reserved a single PIN that I would give to Google. This PIN will never be assigned to a customer. When someone uses this PIN, it will act just like a customer had a valid PIN. The app will allow someone to enter anything they want. Once the survey is submitted, the information that was entered disappears somewhere into the recesses of cyberspace.

It is purse horse pucky that I had to put code in my program just to satisfy Google’s stupid TOS. This has proven to do nothing than a gigantic waste of time. I cannot, with good conscience, charge my customer for Google’s foolish behavior. So, I have wasted, en toto, about 30 hours on this stupid wild goose chase, and I’m sure they’ll STILL find a way to reject the app for another reason. I made less than a fry cook at McDonald’s last year due to the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown that have still have negative ramifications on my consulting business. Does Google (Alphabet) care? No, they have their market cap of 1.19 trillion dollars. However, Alphabet would be wise to remember one thing; Sears was the number one retailer in the world in 1990.


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