Google Play yanks ad-blocking apps for violating Android developer terms

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has removed a number of ad-blocker applications from its Play storefront, alleging the Android apps violated the terms of its Developer Distribution Agreement.

At least four prominent Android apps--AdBlock Plus, AdBlocker, AdAway and AdFree--have been unceremoniously dumped from Google Play. In identical letters mailed to AdBlock Plus and AdBlocker, Google contends their respective 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 writes "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.'"

AdBlock Plus co-founder Till Faida adds "I realize that advertising revenue is important to Google, but understand that AdBlock Plus does not automatically block all ads; we simply allow users the choice whether to block ads or whitelist them. We even encourage advertising that is done appropriately and conforms to an Acceptable Ads policy, which is debated and decided in an open public forum. By unilaterally removing these apps, Google is stepping all over the checks and balances that make the Internet democratic. People should be really alarmed by this move."

Google has declined to comment on the apps' removal.

While the ad-blocking applications are no longer available for download from Google Play, Android device owners who've already installed the apps may continue using them. TechCrunch notes consumers may also download AdBlock Plus from the firm's website, while AdAway has already made its app available in the F-Droid app repository. AdBlocker developer Jared Rummler tweeted he is "hoping to get a release out" today.

For more:
- read this TechCrunch article
- read this AdBlock Plus blog entry
- read this release

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