The Google accounting department has been busy this week dictating how internet users control their online experience when surfing the web from an Android device. Google removed two apps from its Play store that block web advertisements and protect privacy, citing that they violated section 4.4 of the developer distribution agreement. The two affected apps are Adblock Plus and AdAway.
Section 4.4 of the developer distribution agreement 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 unauthorised 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.
In laymen’s terms, Google is basically saying that they don’t won’t any apps that infringe on their ability to make money. Google makes billions of dollars every year from tracking internet users across the web. By gathering vast amounts of personal data about individual web use, Google can serve targeted ads to people. Google hates internet privacy because it disrupts their ability to increase profits.
With over 200 million downloads, Adblock plus is the most popular browser extension in history. It’s an open-source app that blocks banners, pop-ups and video ads, even on YouTube and Facebook. It also protects your online privacy and, unlike Google, it never collects any of your personal data. PC World rated Adblock Plus as a top innovation in its 100 Best Products of 2007 list, and in March 2010 the project collected the Linux New Media award for the Best Open Source Firefox Extension.
Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus had this to say:
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 [of] 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. Our Android software is our fastest growing download at the moment, further demonstrating the disconnect between advertisers and the public – it’s clear to see that there is a real demand for users to be able to personalise their experience.
Users can continue to use AdBlock Plus on their Android device but installation will require a few more steps.
AdAway is an open source program that works on android devices above version 2.1 and needs ROOT access. It lets you select your own sources of hosts files and you can add exceptions to your Whitelist if some apps are not working with apps disabled. It also allows you to define extra hostnames in your own Blacklist as well as the ability to add your own hostname – IP pairs in the Redirection List.
The makers of AdAway have put a notification on their Google Code page advising users to switch to F-Droid, the open alternative to Google Play. To install AdAway on your Android device using F-Droid, follow the following steps:
- Deinstall AdAway
- Allow app installs from ‘unknown sources’
- Download https://f-droid.org/FDroid.apk to your device
- Install this apk
- Open F-Droid and search for AdAway
Internet users urged to fight back
The right of internet users to control their internet experience should not be dictated. Google is increasingly limiting consumer choice and completely destroying internet users’ rights to online privacy. A backlash against Google has already begun and this move will further alienate people. Google gave up its quest to be a search engine long ago, and is now solely an advertising platform. Anyone interested in online rights and freedom should not support Google.