In a move that has sparked negative criticism, Google has decided to delete the popular ad blocking application, AdBlock Plus, from its Android Play Store.
Although primarily known for giving both mobile and desktop users an undeterred web surfing experience by blocking any online advertisements, the application also offers features that block web tracking and bolsters privacy. The software can also be used to help thwart malvertisements, phony ads that deliver malicious payloads to compromise an end-user's computer.
According to an email sent by Google to Till Faida, co-founder of Eyeo, a Germany-based tech startup that owns AdBlock Plus, the app was removed by the tech giant because it violated its 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,” the email read.
While Google said that the developers of the software did not adhere to its policies, in an email to SCMagazine.com on Friday, Faida said the software did no such thing.
“AdBlock Plus doesn't manipulate any apps, it only provides choices to the end user about the incoming web traffic,” Faida said. “Taking away this freedom has serious privacy and security implications.”
As the popularity of ad blocking software has increased, many have questioned if there are grounds for legal battle between the developers of the software and the ad industry. Many of the world's largest internet companies, like Google, depend on revenue from online ads, a fact that Faida believes is the real reason why the application was removed.
“It is very alarming to see that they put their business interests on top of accessibility and users' free choices,” he said. “If this is their policy now, one can only guess what they'll remove for users next.”
In a recent blog post by Peter Eckersley, technology projects director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, he writes that Google's move is “shocking” and “disappointing.”
“It demonstrates that Google is willing to censor software and abandon its support for open platforms as soon as there's an ad-related business reason for doing so,” Eckersley wrote.
SCMagazine.com has contacted Google, but no one was immediately available to comment.
UPDATE: In an email to SCMagazine.com Friday, a spokesperson for Google stated that the company does not comment on individual app removals.
“We remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies," the spokesperson said.