Shawn Stein
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Best Practices
Google Play Location Access Best Practices

One of our focuses at Neura is monetization. Our platform transforms vast amounts of data into actionable insights, enabling deep CRM enrichment, identification of new audiences for acquisition, as well as pinpointing moments of availability for increasing existing user monetization. 

To help our customers continue to provide optimal services to their users, and create highly personalized relevant engagement for optimal app experience, oftentimes location data is utilized. 

Thus we are very aware of the ever evolving regulations when it comes to location permissions and privacy. We wanted to share best practices when it comes to asking your users for location permissions both in the foreground and background. 

Earlier last year Google Play made some policy changes regarding the use of location permissions for apps on their store, specifically in regards to accessing users location in the background. 

Location is used for fundamental app function, as well as for personalization efforts, and provides rich insights that help produce the most individualized user experience. 

Beginning on November 2nd 2020, all apps that requested location access needed to be approved individually, in order to be live on the Google Play store. This changed the way developers operate when it comes to using location information for the functioning of their app. 

Many of our customers report back to us that using location data adds rich context to help them create the best app experiences for their users. With that being said, there has been a lot of uncertainty attached to the new requirements for requesting locations permission. To best assist, we’ve compiled a best practices guide to help you ask your users for location permissions in the foreground and background. 

The rest of the blog post will go over our advice for requesting and asking for location permissions as well as the criteria for getting approved. 

Make sure that these four criteria are covered: 

  • Is clear value being delivered from using location permissions?
    • For example is there a transparent, obvious, or clear reason that you’re asking your users for location? If so, great, you’re in good shape. If not, are there small product changes you can make to create clear value? 
  • Does it make sense?
    • Does the reason you’re asking for location permissions make sense to the everyday person? If you’re a navigation app, like Waze for example, and you ask for location, it’s quite clear why you’d need to share it – you want help find the best route to your location, Waze can recommend less traffic congested areas based on your location. 
  • Does it relate to the primary purpose of the app?
    • Is there a clear connection between the location permission ask and the main purpose of your app? For example, are you a retail app asking for location because you want to tell you users when they’re close to one of your in store brick and mortar branches?
  • Is location needed to have your app operate?  
    • This is of key importance – does your app actually need location permissions to function? Sometimes location is a “nice to have”, and not a “need to have” in the eyes of Google Play, make sure to check out the distinction and see if your app qualifies as a “need to have”. 

Now that you’ve determined if you meet this criteria, it’s time to think about how, and when, you’ll ask your users for such data. 

Our first piece of advice is to make sure you’re transparent about your ask and what you’ll be doing with that data e.g. that you’ll be collecting location data and how you’ll use it. For example if you are a food delivery app, it makes sense that it’s necessary to ask your users for their location information, and that it’s being used to deliver information about the nearest restaurants and to find your location when your food is ready for delivery. 

Next, while you’re being transparent, make sure that you’re showing the value. For the food delivery app there is clear value right off the bat, make sure your users understand that. The value comes from being able to tailor search results to them, where they are at any given moment, and deliver the food directly to them. It’s not necessary to ask for location as soon as someone opens their app for the first time – instead, wait until someone first tries to tailor their search and order food. This is the moment that asking for location makes total sense. This is the same for retail apps that have pick-up checkout options, or navigation apps. 

Lastly, make sure that your ask is timely. We recommend that you don’t alert your recently installed users with advertisements right when they open your app for the first time. Walk them through the onboarding process and when a feature comes across the screen that pertains to location permission, ask them so that you’re users understand exactly why location is being asked for, and see the clear value. 

Now that we’ve touched on the criteria and the best way to ask, we wanted to show you why some of the most common genres of apps are asking for location today. 

Here are some reasons that certain apps ask for location permissions:

Type of AppReason for Using Location
Health & Fitness Track activity such as runs, bike rides, movement and more to include statistics such as distance traveled  
Social apps (Instagram, Facebook)These apps often ask for permissions to connect you with local relevant businesses, allow you to tag yourself in areas, put content up in specific area marketplaces, etc.
Shopping/ retail apps Location is helpful for in-person shopping experiences and pick up orders 
Smart Home apps Look for location to tag certain geofencing proximities, automatically turn on and off alarm systems, or alert of security breaches if the primary user is away from home
Steaming services Most streaming services such as Netflix ask for location to see what content is available in your time zone and region, this also includes regional blackouts for sporting games 

Here are some real examples of the explanations apps give when asking users for location permissions:

AppCited Reason for Asking for Location
LinkedInAllow access to this device’s location to display jobs and people near you and other information. 
RemindersWhen precise is on, your location is used for reminder notifications when you arrive at or leave places.
VenmoThis improves your search results, enhances account security, and allows us to offer you location-specific content and services.
Wells FargoWe need access to your location to show you relevant ATM locations”

In conclusion, location permissions are both oftentimes essential and praganametic for app functioning. They allow apps to fundamentally be able to operate, while helping others provide tailored and personalized in-app experiences. 

To summarize, the key points for asking for location permissions are: “to implement critical current features or services in your application” and you should not request location permissions from users “for the sole purpose of advertising or analytics.” 

These questions help gauge your compliance with Google Play’s policies for location permissions: is location essential for the functioning of the app? Is it clear why you’re asking for background and foreground permissions? Does it provide the user value? 

We’d be happy to hear any feedback from you in your experience with location permissions or connect in greater detail about this process.


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