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Google Preparing to Purge Thousands of 'Zombie' Apps

There's a good chance that the Google Play marketplace will soon have fewer apps — and that's by Google's design.

Google has been sending notices to developers around the world telling them that if they don't clean up their apps, their programs could wind up removed from the Google Play marketplace, according to The Next Web, which obtained a copy of the email.

The notice from Google accuses app developers of being in violation of the company's User Data policy and requests that they have a "valid privacy policy" if their app "requests or handles sensitive user or device information." Google wants developers to add the privacy policy to their apps by March 15 or else.

"Administrative action will be taken to limit the visibility of your app, up to and including removable from the Play Store," the company wrote in its notice to developers.

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The move is likely part of a broader push by Google to clean up its Play Store. The marketplace has grown in leaps and bounds and now has more than 2 million mobile apps available to Android users. However, it's also overrun with so-called Zombie Apps that haven't been looked after, improved or updated in years. They pose potential security risks and ultimately degrade the Android user experience.

By requiring developers to update privacy policies within the next month, Google is effectively determining which developers are still engaged with their apps and which are not. And any that fall in the latter category will likely have their programs removed.

The policy has another potential benefit for Android users: it should make it easier for legitimate apps to surface on Google Play.

For its part, Google hasn't commented on the apparent decision to limit zombie apps and likely won't. But it's part of a broader attempt by both Google and Apple, which operates its own App Store, to judge their marketplaces not by the number of apps, as they once did, but rather the quality of the programs they have. Apple also judges its marketplace by the amount of cash it pays out to developers, arguing it's a measure of the quality and appeal of its store.

Either way, look for fewer apps in the Google Play marketplace this spring.