It’s not new, it’s not unique, and it’s certainly not going anywhere. Google’s application store for its Android operating system, the Play Store, has a serious porn problem. Fire the Play Store up on your device, go through apps and books recommendations, and I bet you’ll find some explicit content.

App recommendation on Play Store

Here’s how apps and books, or just any other recommendation system works: much like personalized ads, which are targeted at one’s personal taste – the things you buy online, the things you seem to be interested in, Google logs relevant content. If that wasn’t scary enough, it also shows you what your friends (or people you’ve in your Google+ circle) are recommending. I, for one, am not really a fan of erotic content, heck, even if I was, I wouldn’t use my work email ID to access such things. But apparently, Google doesn’t really care about what you’re surfing as it assumes that you would want to access such content, nonetheless.


It’s not like Google isn’t doing anything about it. It maintains a strong stand against erotic content, or so it says. Last month, Google started cleaning out this mess… yet again, but as it seems, either the roll out is too darn slow, or it has missed a few things.

An interesting observation, which could be the reason why Google hesitates to get such filthy content out of its system, is the popularity. These apps are tremendously popular, just see the number of downloads. As awesome as Google is, at the end of the day, it always comes down to the money.

Play Store pornography 1

The trouble with having porn content on the Play Store, besides kids might running into them, is your security. Back in 2012, Symantec, a security firm, found vulnerabilities in three porn apps that had been downloaded between 500,000 and 1.5 million times. Over the past few months, we’ve encountered several such apps that have been found of leaking users’ email address, GPS, IMEI number and your other information to presumably vicious minds.

The other problem is consumer demand. For many people, Google’s move to shower erotic content isn’t really a bad thing. Many people don’t see being offered such suggestions as a problem in the first place.

Apple too had a porn problem. But it was quick enough to fix it, at least after being criticized for a while. But Google is yet to do something concrete about it.

Google Porn Problem techpp

As far as the terms and conditions go, Google is against any sexually explicit material. Under the content policy of its Google Play Developer program, the Mountain View tech giant states,

Sexually Explicit Material: Apps that contain or promote pornography are prohibited; this includes sexually explicit or erotic content, icons, titles, or descriptions. Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child sexual abuse imagery. If we become aware of content with child sexual abuse imagery, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and delete the Google Accounts of those involved with the distribution.

Yet, it’s slowly, if at all, taking any action against it. Even if Google decides to remove all such apps, the problem is that many apps are disguised behind perfectly normal app description and icons. It is when you download it and start using that you realize what’s going on.

Remember when Blackberry Messenger arrived on Android? Okay, remember the dozens of fake ones that arrived hours before the official one was published on the store? Yeah, Play Store hosts several hundreds of such fake apps. From Fake apps to porn content to just how easy it is to sideload a pirated app, Google Play has got a lot of things to worry about.

If it really wants to compete with Apple’s App Store, not only does it need apps, but control over those apps as well. Even specific keyword search on iOS’s App Store and even Microsoft’s Windows Phone Store don’t bring out half as polluted content as Google would suggest on a normal sunny day.

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Author

Manish is pursuing a degree in Computer Science and Engineering but spends more time in writing about technology. He has written for a number of Indian and international publications including BetaNews, BGR India, WinBeta, MakeTechEasier, MediaNama, and Digit magazine among others. When not writing, you would find him ranting about the state of digital journalism on Twitter.