Google kicks ad-blocker apps off Play store

Google kicks ad-blocker apps off Play store

Summary: You don't need to make malicious software to get the boot anymore, says ad blocker developer.

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TOPICS: Android, Google
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Google has given several ad blocker apps the boot for being in violation of its developer distribution agreement.

Advertising blocking apps Ad Blocker, AdBlock Plus, AdAway and AdFree were all taken off Google Play overnight after Google enforced a term in its developer agreement prohibiting developers from disrupting others' services.

The term in question reads:

"4.4 Prohibited Actions. You agree that you will not engage in any activity with the Market, including the development or distribution of Products, that interferes with, disrupts, damages, or accesses in an unauthorised manner the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third party including, but not limited to, Android users, Google or any mobile network operator. You may not use customer information obtained from the Market to sell or distribute Products outside of the Market."

Jared Rummler, the maker of Ad Blocker Root, posted the letter from Google on Pastebin, which includes a threat that repeat violations will result in a possible termination of the Google account.

The terms don't outline what "unauthorised" means, but ad blockers clearly interfere with the ad-related services and revenues on Android. Adblock Plus for instance includes YouTube ads among the banners and popups it blocks, which is surely not good for the Google property.

Wladimir Palant of Adblock Plus says the decision to remove his app signalled a "course change at Google."

"Until recently the main distinction between Android and iPhone was that Android allowed you to install any app as long as it wasn't malicious (meaning that it's obvious what the app does)," Palant wrote on his blog.

"Google Play still allows apps stating 'for rooted phones only' but I wonder whether these are next on the list to be removed — each of them performs 'unauthorised actions.'"

Android users that want to install AdBlock will still be able to from the company's website, while those with it installed already can continue using it, although they won't get any more updates for the software.

AdAway, meanwhile, has placed its app on the F-Droid Repository.

ZDNet has asked Google for comment and will update the story if it receives any.

Topics: Android, Google

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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39 comments
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  • Do no evil, huh?

    Gimme a break.
    LBiege
    • How is it evil

      to make sure that the people who are giving you "free apps" actually make some money?
      Michael Alan Goff
      • It jams users' screen w/ unwanted ads

        That's how.
        LBiege
        • So

          Google should support people screwing developers?
          Michael Alan Goff
          • So you are saying people should be force-fed with ADs?

            The reason AdsBlocks are popular is b/c people want it. You don't go in there arm-twisting people's choice away.
            LBiege
          • If you're using an app that is paid for with ads

            Then, yes, you should have to deal with ads.

            There's no such thing as a free lunch.
            Michael Alan Goff
        • Please define "jams"

          You clearly have never seen an ad supported app.

          Do you not get any ad supported apps on other platforms then?
          Little Old Man
          • .....

            I have had plenty of free apps that come with the ad bloat. By jam he is referenceing taking up screen real estate, using ram, installing tracker cookies, slowing your processors resources, following your internet usgae. Those ads aren't just there to give you and offer they more or less are stealing from the device owner whether its resources or personal info. People use android because it was open and it allowed you choice but it now seems google may be looking to go apples route which then makes them no better. Everyone should be rooted and unlocked if your on android.
            Fletchguy
          • If you don't like ads on free software

            Don't use free software
            Michael Alan Goff
          • If given the option...

            I always buy the "premium" version hat comes without the ads. If the developer doesn't offer that option...
            polonium101
  • Why penalize apps that are meant only for rooted devices?

    Reminds me of Cydia, when it first came out. Now Google is just encouraging a different repository to be built, which would be pre-seeded in custom ROMs.
    roguexz
  • Purely motivated by money

    As the article mentioned, these apps hit Google in the pocketbook, so they are banned. As far as the "unauthorized" b/s goes, it shows you that Google is just another company who believes that you don't really own your device, they do. How very fruity of them ...
    terry flores
    • Its not just Google's money

      Most "free" apps on the market use advertising to pay for their development and support - the money going to the developer.
      I was waiting to see how this adblock business would play out, since it takes the foundation out of the developer's income model. It couldn't go on forever.
      If Google had taken the other route to secure developers' income - making all apps use the pay-up-front model - people would be howling about "evil" google killing off "free" apps.
      radleym
  • Does this become a security issue?

    Ad blockers are still available - you'll just have to go outside The Play store to get them. Not that the Play store is tremendously secure, isn't this an invitation to people to go to an even less secure place to get the apps they want? So it could be argued that Google's action could increase the spread of Android malware, without really doing anything to eliminate ad blocking.
    polonium101
  • Install FF for android

    Adblocker comes from mozilla addons.
    Alan Smithie
  • This Shows Why Nobody Controls Android

    Some people liken Google to Microsoft, assuming its power over Android is equivalent to that of Microsoft over Windows. It's not. Even the closed source parts of Android--like the Play Store--have competition--like from F-Droid.
    ldo17
    • That's a 5-star spin job

      Competition, huh? How many Android users even know there's F-Droid let alone get APPs that way. This is a classic example of "open" platforms willing to pull off every dirty trick they accuse proprietary platforms of to rake in more profit.
      LBiege
      • How about the Amazon app store?

        And how does this become a "dirty trick"?
        If you were a developer, how would you like to see your income stream cut off by another dev breaking their distribution agreement?

        You obviously don't know very much about open systems of any sort. Doesn't stop you from whining though.
        radleym
        • ...

          Any developer who is relying on only ad based revenue for their app is a moron to begin with as everyone knows those ads are annoying and with how android was made most people want and will simply block them. I would rather pay the 99 cents and be ad free if thats the only option for a particular app or go to another dev who is truely offering a free app.
          Fletchguy
          • looks like ur flagger didn't like your comment

            They must be one of those type of dev. LOL. I for one agree with you. If a developer is relying only on ads for his/her/there rev, they aren't smart at all or they're about the money... That said, it is easy money for them. Don't they get x amount of cents per so many ad hit via their app... I personally have AdFree on mobile, AdAway on Nexus7 & Ad Blocker on the generic tablets.

            Now if the software is free and the dev takes donations (i.e. like devs on XDA), I'd gladly donate to them if i used and continue to use their stuff. That's only right and fair. Well it looks like Play doesn't contain ANY ad blocking apps (looks like they pulled them ALL off) I verified it via way of 1mobile market which bypassed having a google account to get apps. Glad I have the apks for each.
            Free Webapps