Recently, it was reported that Google was unilaterally removing all ad-blocking apps from the official Google Play store. Later on, the developers of the excised apps confirmed this, adding that according to Google their apps had been removed for violating the Developer Distribution Agreement that all Android developers must agree to.
In an ideal world, one could take Google’s move to be a positive one. The exact language says:
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.
Emphasis is ours. The apps in question do break the agreement; Google is within its rights to remove the apps.
The trouble is we don’t live in an ideal world. The rather significant number of apps and websites with aggressive ads annoyed users and created this problem. Some of these may even behave maliciously and try to subscribe the user to premium services. Many users are already wary of how ad networks track them, and are tired of seeing ads wherever they go online. Simply put, users don’t always trust ad networks and act accordingly to protect themselves.
Google clearly did this in order to protect advertisers and developers, particularly those who create Android apps. It may well be the right decision from a business point of view. Unfortunately, however, there are plenty of unscrupulous developers and advertisers that users may want to protect themselves from.
Would-be users of Android devices should keep this in mind from now on: they no longer have some of the tools to protect themselves from unscrupulous advertisers, developers, or site owners. This is something that users should keep in mind moving forward – particularly as Google has tipped its hand as to which group of people is most important to them.