Google’s making the Play Store safer with new app review process and age-based ratings

Thanks to an initially lax app submission process, Google Play was once derogatorily referred to as the “Wild West” of app stores. Now, Google’s working to change that perception.

Today, the Google Play team revealed in a blog post that it began more consistently enforcing policies a few months ago, relying on a combination of improved automation and, for the first time, a team of human reviewers. In a somewhat related announcement, Google said that the Play Store will soon adopt age-based ratings like those issued by Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

According to Google, the beefed-up app reviewing process hasn’t resulted in longer-than-average delays. Purnima Kochikar, director of business development for Google Play, told TechCrunch that most apps are approved in hours. That’s apparently thanks to software that automatically scans apps for malicious code and certain content violations, like copyright infringement and sexual content. Any app that’s particularly egregious or unusually foul, though, is flagged for review by a staffed expert.

The new ratings system for apps and games that rolls out today are fairly automatic, too. As part of a broader push into digital storefronts by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), ratings will be based on a scale developed by the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) — a partnership formed in 2013 between the ESRB, PEGI in Europe, and other ratings groups — will soon receive prime placement in Play Store app listings. Game ratings for multiple territories are automatically generated after developers fill out a questionnaire.

The announcements mark promising steps forward for the fast-growing Google Play, which by some metrics has surpassed Apple’s app store in both apps and developers earlier this year. Google previously declined to adopt the ESRB’s ratings for mobile games, and has suffered negative press for hosting apps infected with malware.