AlexaDev Tuesday: New Health And Fitness Skill Policy?

One of my skills was recently caught in the ‘quality spot check’ net Amazon regularly casts over live skills, and in the process of trying to answer the cert team’s change request I was hit with what may be a new health and fitness skill policy.

 

Fitness Pizza

 

Caveat: if this is a new policy, Amazon has not made it official. I’m only talking about what’s being required of my skill and options I’ve been given to meet the requirements. However, if the same requirements could also be applied to your live or in-development skill, you might want to make some changes proactively.

 

Privacy Policy: It’s Not Just For Data Gathering Anymore
Developers know they must provide a publicly-accessible, online privacy policy for software that gathers any user data. Apparently a privacy policy can also be required for skills that reference a medical condition.

My Help Me Sleep: The 15 Minute Insomnia Cure (UK readers click here) skill runs a fifteen minute audio track that walks the user through a progressive muscle relaxation exercise: focusing on, and relaxing, muscle groups in the body one region at a time. That’s it.

First I was asked to add a disclaimer to my skill description, stating the skill is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or offer medical advice. I added the text and resubmitted, and then I was told I also need to provide a link to a privacy policy.

This skill does not gather any user data, and in fact couldn’t gather any user data even if the user wanted to volunteer it. There’s not even any token, user ID, or data persistence across sessions. While the cert team does not explicitly state their privacy policy request is because the skill has the word for a medical condition in its title (“insomnia”) and a word that purports to address that condition (“cure”), I’ve been given two options to pass cert: either remove/change those words, or provide a privacy policy.

 

SEO vs Cert Team Requirements
Why not rename the skill to remove those two words? Search.

Choosing a good title and invocation phrase can dramatically increase skill discoverability. “Help me sleep” and “insomnia cure” are the phrases users are most likely to try when seeking help getting to sleep. I could change “cure” to “help”, but I think removing the word “insomnia” would be a big mistake.

 

Next Steps
Even though the cert team request doesn’t make sense to me, I’m going to create the requested privacy policy page and add the link to my skill to ensure this live, strong-performing skill doesn’t get pulled from the skill store. All the policy will say is that no LME Skills gather or store any user data.

 

Will Your Skill Be Affected?
Again, because no official Amazon policy change has been announced, I can’t say with certainty whose skills may be affected. However, based on my experience, I’d say if your skill title or invocation phrase has any medical- or illness-related words in it you might want to go ahead and add the disclaimer text to your skill description and provide a link to a privacy policy.

For example, an “Insulin Reminder” skill references a prescription drug, so the skill dev might be hit with the new requirement. A “Daily Affirmations for Recovering Alcoholics” skill references alcoholism, so it’s another likely candidate.

 

Better safe than denied cert: proactively addressing possible cert fail reasons saves time and frustration.

 

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Kyle Simpson’s You Don’t Know JS book series (UK readers click here) offers some fantastic resources for JavaScript developers. JavaScript is one of the most popular coding languages in use for Alexa skill development, and these are the types of books you’ll refer to again and again as you up your JavaScript skill dev game. Every book in the series is rated 4.5/5 stars or better.

You Don't Know JS

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