Google just deleted my nearly 10-year-old free & open-source Android app

Mathieu Méa
Aug 28 · 5 min read

google@play-store: sudo rm -rf org.mtransit.android*

(my app monthly revenues graph, stopped abruptly by Google Play)

It’s my turn.

After reading many articles about other Android developers horror stories, my Google Play Publisher account has been terminated… and I don't really know why… which doesn't really matter because I had no time to fix it.


UPDATED (Fri, Aug 30): The main app is back on the Google Play Store (ads are back too) and the secondary apps are being published gradually. Also, I have received a new email informing me that my apps were actually NOT in violation of the Play Store policies . Thanks again everyone 💚

UPDATED (Thu, Aug 29): Good news🎉, I have received a new email and I have access again to the Google Play Console. Thanks everyone 💚


The timeline

  • Fri, Aug 23, 02:16 AM EDT: Notification from Google Play about Violation of Deceptive Behavior policy.
  • Fri, Aug 23, 03:30 AM EDT: Notification from Google Play about Violation of Deceptive Behavior policy.
  • Fri, Aug 23, 08:41 AM EDT: Notification from Google Play about Violation of Deceptive Behavior policy
  • Fri, Aug 23, 08:46 AM EDT: Notification from Google Play about Violation of Deceptive Behavior policy
  • Fri, Aug 23, 01:36 PM EDT: Multiple Strikes > Multiple violations of the Developer Program Policies and Developer Distribution Agreement
  • Fri, Aug 23, 09:21 PM EDT: Google Play Team > Your appeal for reinstatement submitted successfully
  • Sat, Aug 24, 12:31 AM EDT: Facebook Audience Network > App not found in App Store
  • Sat, Aug 24, 12:31 AM EDT: Facebook Audience Network > Traffic blocked due to policy violation
  • Sat, Aug 24, 09:09 AM EDT: Google AdMob: Action required to avoid immediate ad serving disruption
  • Sun, Aug 25, 05:07 AM EDT: Google AdMob ad serving has been restricted to your app
  • Sun, Aug 25, 05:21 PM EDT: Google Play Team > After reviewing your appeal, we have confirmed our initial decision and will not be able to reinstate your developer account.
  • Wed, Aug 28, 9:28 AM EDT: Google Play team > I’m not able to provide any more information or a better answer to your question. In our previous email, I made sure to include all the information available to me.
  • Thu, Aug 29, 5:45 AM EDT: Google Play team > After further investigation, we have conditionally accepted the appeal based upon leniency considerations. […] your apps hide icon after installation. Please make sure to fix the violation before resubmitting your apps.
  • Fri, Aug 30, 1:55 PM EDT: Facebook Audience Network > Appealing
  • Fri, Aug 30, 2:02 PM EDT: Google Play team > after reviewing how these apps with no sensitive permissions interact with the primary app, we determined that this implementation is currently not in violation of our policies.
  • Fri, Aug 30, 2:05 PM EDT: Facebook Audience Network > Appealed

My app story

I started working on the MonTransit app in 2009 and released the first version on the Android Market in June 2010 . It was the 2nd app (by 1 month) to help Android users access public transit schedule in Montréal in Canada.

In 2014, I re-started the project and published the current generation of the app in June 2015.

(source: AppAnnie)

Friday, the app was installed on 120k+ active devices, used by 17k+ people that day and the #6 free app in Maps & Navigation in Canada.

The app is entirely free and open-source and I’ve put around 5,000 hours of hard work into it.

Learn more about the app: 🐙,📄,▶️,🧠, 🐦,👥 (v1: 🐙,📄,▶️,🧠)


Why my account was terminated?

4 of my apps were reviewed and suspended on Friday morning for the exact same issue (same email):

“Violation of Deceptive Behavior policy

We don’t allow apps that attempt to deceive users or enable dishonest behavior. Apps must provide accurate disclosure of their functionality and should perform as reasonably expected by the user. Apps must not attempt to mimic functionality or warnings from the operating system or other apps. Any changes to device settings must be made with the user’s knowledge and consent and be easily reversible by the user.”

Shortly after these multiple [similar] strikes, I received an email informing me that my developer account was terminated:

“REASON FOR TERMINATION: Multiple violations of the Developer Program Policies and Developer Distribution Agreement as outlined in previous emails sent to the registered email address of your Publisher account.

Google Play Publisher terminations are associated with developers, and may span multiple account registrations and related Google services.”

After appealing the decision, I’ve received an email informing me about the confirmation of the initial decision:

“After reviewing your appeal, we have confirmed our initial decision and will not be able to reinstate your developer account.”


Why should my account be reinstated?

That's the question asked in the form Appeal a Google Play Developer account termination so I’m going to answer here as well.

This termination may have been an error because:

  • It was not really multiple strikes: the 4 notifications were for 4 similar(identical?) violations of the same policy affecting 4 similar apps (including 1 app not in production)
  • There was not enough time to react: only 12 hours between 1st email & account terminated
  • There was not enough detail provided in the notifications: no screenshots, no specifics about my apps
  • I’ve read++ the Deceptive Behavior policy and I don’t think my app is deceiving Google Play Store users: the apps title & description clearly described the features of the apps and how they worked
  • I’m willing to make any changes that would help make the app comply with the policy once at least a little bit more details are provided
  • The developer account was created in 2015 and was in good standing
  • No significant change was made recently to the apps or the store listings
  • Also… if it matters at all… I’m a good human being… with feelings…

I’m not a bad guy, I’m not a hacker trying to deceive Google Play users into downloading harmful apps.


Dear Google Play Team

I know policing a big platform like the Google Play Store must be hard but terminating publisher accounts so abruptly without giving them a chance to fix the issue is not right. Especially accounts with years of good standing.


What’s next?

This past few months, I was trying to spend less on the new Google Maps Places API pricing and updating my app icons to match the new Google Play icon design spec. Recently, I was in the process to switch to App Bundles & App Signing by Google Play and also migrate to AndroidX. Oh and also dealing with device manufacturers breaking Android apps by trying to outsmart Google in battery saving optimizations.

Now, I have to spend time fighting this and putting my APKs somewhere else for the users who will take the time to email me about the missing apps updates on Google Play.


How can YOU help?

I need your help, whomever you are.

Please clap👏, like👍, star⭐, heart❤️, vote🔼, share📤 this story as much as possible.

Thanks for your time.

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