Reports are coming in from all over that Google is now removing all existing ad-blocking utility apps from their app store. According to Google, these apps violate certain parts of the developer agreement that any Android dev has to agree to before submitting the app to Google Play. Even though the apps aren’t performing any new tasks that they weren’t doing last week, Google now say that they are interfering “with another service or product in an unauthorized manner”:
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.
Some of these apps have been in Google Play for years, while others (like the AdBlock Plus app I reviewed back in November) have only been available for a few months. Several now appear to have been removed from Google Play, including AdAway, Adfree, and more.
As annoying as this is, it’s not a serious loss. Many of these ad blocking apps are available from the developer’s websites, so it should not be too hard to replace the app that Google removed from Google Play with a different version. But one thing that does worry me is Google’s next step. If they are removing ad-blockers now what’s to stop Google from updating Android OS so the ad-blockers stop working?
Okay, that’s not such a serious issue for owners of current and older devices, but I still worry. Many older Android smartphones and tablets are never updated, but as we replace our old gadgets with new ones I think it will be an issue.