Following the release of Android 4.2.2, we knew there was a possibility of this day coming. With Android 4.2.2, Google fixed the workaround used by many ad blocking apps on Android, including Ad Block Plus. The app requires the ability to automatically set a device’s proxy to ‘localhost’, which as many of you security experts are probably aware of, is a huge security hole and could be used for malicious things such as phishing scams or privacy hacking. While some people assumed that Google simply corrected the bug to make the web more secure for users, it looks like the move was for another reason.
According to a tweet from Android developer Jared Rummler, Google has started removing all ad blocking apps from Google Play.
AdAway, one of the more well-known ad blockers were among those removed. The developer of the app said that Google notified him that his app was in violation of section 4.4 of the Google Play Store Developer Agreement, which deals with apps that interfere with “Android users, Google or any mobile network operator.”
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 unauthorized 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.
Developers don’t really have any way to defend themselves this time. Ad blockers obviously do interfere with everything Google lists in section 4 of its agreement with developers. At this point, all major ad blockers have disappeared from the Play Store, including Ad Block Plus, AdFree Android, and the aforementioned AdAway.
In the statement Google sent to AdAway developers, it invited them to “revise and upload a new instance of the application that is compliant with the developer terms,” but unless a miracle takes place, we don’t see anyway in which developers could work around this rule.
What is weird is that ad blocking apps survived for so long without any issues what so ever, and now all of the sudden, Google is cracking down on the apps. Ad blockers are perceived in very different ways by consumers and web administrators. For many websites, ads are their main source of income, so if users use ad blockers, a major chunk of revenue is cut-off, while users use them to speed up their web browsing experience.
What do you think of Google putting their foot down when it comes to ad blockers? Let us know down in the comments!