Google will soon be using an external body to judge the age ratings of apps available via its Play Store, rather than letting developers set the ratings themselves, as it continues its efforts to protect younger users.
The International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), already being used for Mozilla’s Firefox Marketplace, will automatically decide on a rating after developers fill in a questionnaire about the content and functions of their products. However, these are subject to change as manual checks will also be carried out on apps that are very popular or those about which complaints are received.
Ratings will also depend on region, as the IARC consists of five bodies, each giving its own rating: the Australian Classification Board, Brazil’s Classifcacao Indicativa, the Pan European Game Information, Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle in Germany and Software Rating Board in North America.
The bodies can also choose not to rate an app, in which case it will not be distributed in their region.
Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are also reportedly interested in using the services of the IARC while Apple is likely to stick to its own system, which is known to be a strict.
Last month, Google launched a programme called ‘Designed for Families’, which allows Android developers to categorise their apps as family-friendly in order to provide consumers with “new ways to browse, search, and discover high quality apps and games for their families”.
The search giant has had its fair share of trouble around its young users: A coalition of consumer and youth advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in the US, arguing that Google has used “unfair and deceptive practices” in connection with its new YouTube Kids app and the company has also had to shell out $19 million to parents whose children have run up large bills in Google Play via in-app charges that were unauthorised by the account holder.