Mar, 13 2013

It’s hump day, but there’s no time for middle-of-the-week celebration if you’re the developer of ad-blocking software on Android. According to several sources, Google has started sending notifications to developers with ad-blocking software in the Google Play Store regarding these apps’ removal. Players like AdBlock, AdAway, AdFree and more are being whisked away.

So why, exactly, is Google bringing the ban hammer down on these unfortunate souls? Well, they seem to violate section 4.4 of the Play Store developer agreement. Said section states:

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.

The key language here is regarding the interference of third-party clients’ services, networks and properties. This can be interpreted to mean that ad-blocking software adversely affects applications which implement ad code they’re targeting (including, but not limited to, Google’s own AdSense ads). Google’s not in the wrong with such an interpretation, and with high stakes in the matter — it does make most of its money from advertising, after all — they stand to have a heightened degree of interest in all this.

I know what you’re thinking: how can Google do this if Android is so open? Well, it’s open to a point, and it’s always been that way. There are certain rules in place that Google simply can’t bend on, whether it be to protect user information and privacy, to protect developers, and to protect the Play Store from malintent. That said, these developers are free to distribute their apps elsewhere, but Google won’t allow that bidding to be done in the Google Play Store. Here’s the message reportedly being sent out to developers:

This is a notification that your application, [REDACTED], has been removed from the Google Play Store.

REASON FOR REMOVAL: Violation of section 4.4 of the Developer Distribution Agreement.

After a regular review we have determined that your app interferes with or accesses another service or product in an unauthorized manner. This violates the provision of your agreement with Google referred to above.

All violations are tracked. Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts. If your account is terminated, payments will cease and Google may recover the proceeds of any past sales and/or the cost of any associated fees (such as chargebacks and transaction fees) from you.

If your developer account is still in good standing, you may revise and upload a new instance of the application that is compliant with the developer terms. Before uploading any new applications, please review the Developer Distribution Agreement and Content Policy.

If you feel we have made this determination in error, you can visit this Google Play Help Center article for additional information regarding this removal.

The Google Play Team

[via Twitter, Google Code, PasteBin, thanks Russ!]

stars Further Reading