Removing Play Store ad-blocker apps is a mistake

Google_play_smallHaving looked through the Play Store the other day for security apps, I happen to notice that Google has now removed all ad-blockers. Some ad-blockers can be installed if you have ‘rooted’ your Android device. Google claim that the developers of these ad-blockers have violated their developer distribution agreement.

Google claims that ad-blocker apps are accessing the Android OS in an unauthorised manner. Some developers have been told that if they repeat violations then they will have their Google accounts terminated. So why this heavy handed approach from Google?

Ad-blockers by their very nature block ad-related services (see bootnote) to connect from running in-apps and through the browser i.e. YouTube which is owned by Google is also blocked by some of these privacy apps. Ad-blockers are not malicious* and given Google’s bouncer (anti-virus in the cloud) and app verify on Android 4.2 (which scans Play Store and Third-party installed apps on a device) haven’t really stopped malicious apps to the Play Store, you’d be forgiven to think Google should have focussed on rogue developers.

*Ad-blockers are not malicious in anyway, in fact they are useful privacy tools and some also improve battery performance by removing domain network calling.

Google has inadvertently pushed legitimate developers of these ad-blockers onto third-party app markets. We all know that these app markets are a major distribution access point for malware authors. Google is only thinking about it’s revenue and that of its’ developers. You only have to look at the number of freemium apps on Play Store to realize that in-app ads and in-app purchasing of virtual goods is what makes the money, so blocking ads is actually harming both Google and the developer community.

Google in my mind could have worked with the developers of the ad-blockers to whitelist (for example adding IP address filtering) Google ads and associate products, thereby avoiding the unnecessary removal of genuinely useful privacy apps from the Play Store. I also know some developers who build apps for Android, and they tell me that they don’t want their lively hoods damaged by Google either way, if it decided to push developers to pay an up-front-payment.

Safe surfing folks!

Bootnote: In most instances Ad-blockers require users to configure their Wi-Fi network connection to use a Proxy to set to localhost and specify the port required for the blocker to work.

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