Adblock Plus snubs Google Play with Android app update

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A week after Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play ousted a number of ad-blocker applications, one of the affected apps, Adblock Plus, has released an updated version that sidesteps the storefront altogether.

Adblock Plus for Android 1.1--available as a sideload install from the Adblock Plus site--brings a series of improvements including automatic updates and a switch to Google's Holo user interface theme. The new version also boasts a dialog to help with the manual proxy configuration, improved icon hiding and performance/stability improvements. "Even if you already have Adblock Plus for Android, please install this version manually or you won't get any updates in the future because Google removed us from the Play store," the firm warns.

In addition to Adblock Plus, Google removed apps including AdBlocker, AdAway and AdFree from the Play catalog. In identical letters mailed to Adblock Plus and AdBlocker, Google contends the apps are in violation of section 4.4 of its Developer Distribution Agreement, which 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."

On the AdBlock Plus blog, project lead Wladimir Palant wrote "This looks like a course change at Google. Until recently the main distinction between Android and iPhone was that Android allowed you to install any app as long as it wasn't malicious (meaning that it's obvious what the app does). Google Play still allows apps stating 'for rooted phones only' but I wonder whether these are next on the list to be removed--each of them performs 'unauthorized actions.'"

Google has declined to comment on the apps' removal.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation was harshly critical of Google's decision. "Google clearly has a vested interest in preventing people from installing ad blocking software like Adblock Plus," the non-profit advocacy and legal organization said. "But until recently, the company did an admirable job of leaving that matter aside and letting users make their own choices about whether they wanted to hide ads on their phones and in their browsers. Google established a reputation for building tools that put the interests of their users first. This new form of censorship is the exact opposite. It is not only a betrayal of the principle of openness, but a betrayal of the trust that people put in Google when they decide to buy an Android phone."

For more:
- read this Adblock Plus blog entry

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