Google removing ad-blocking apps from Google Play

Google has removed several ad-blocking apps from Google Play this afternoon, and sent letters to the developers explaining that they were breaking one of the rules. Section 4.4 of the Play store developer distribution agreement (opens in new tab) says:

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.

While technically these apps do interfere with the normal way other apps operate, we all know that Google makes money from ads. At some level that has to come into play, and it's no surprise that Google would want ad-blocking software to disappear from their official marketplace. It sucks, but it is their store to run how they please, and whether it be Nazi themes or ad blockers, if they don't like it they are allowed to remove it.

But we don't have to stop using them. A big draw of Android is the ability to sideload apps without rooting or any fancy trickery. Hopefully, the affected developers will find somewhere safe and trustworthy to host their apps for download, and things can continue just like they are now. The full text of the letter sent to developers is after the break.

This leaves one question -- is the Chrome store next?

Source: @jrummy16

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

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Oh god the internet is so ugly with ads. If the Chrome store is next, I don't know what I'll do without AdBlock Plus.
  • I don't use an ad-blocker on my Galaxy S3...I don't mind the ads. Then I read the comment about the Chrome store...! I agree, if I can't have AdBlock+ on Chrome, that could get me back over to Firefox, at least partially. While I do love the sync and Chrome to Phone...I think I love AdBlock+ for my browsing even more.
  • Firefox has sync
  • This. Just add the Fox To Phone extension in Firefox and Chrome To Phone on your phone and/or tablet and you are good to go.
  • You can still install AdBlock Plus from outside the Chrome store. Even though Google makes it hard, you can "sideload" apps like before they changed their rules.
  • Thank you sir! Preemptive panic attack averted!
  • People with phones like the Note(II) and Galazy S phones have giant screens and high resolutions... Some of us have Androids with tiny tiny screens, and the ads don't scale terribly well... That means an ad that is tiny and unobtrusive on an S4 is murder on an Ideos.. Also a lot of the times there aren't and close buttons on them, which then renders that app useless...
  • If the Chrome store is next I will be moving back to Firefox. Period.
  • its interesting that they didnt remove airpush blocker from the market.
    it make sense why they removed it.
  • Well, they added a way to stop apps from using the Notification Bar in 4.1 and specifically called out AirPush when they mentioned it. They do not like AirPush.
  • Although I enjoyed adfree android for a while, I haven't used it in months and I don't even miss it. This is a great move for developers that make money off ads. I was reading this same story about an hour ago on Android Police and all the comments were positive supportive of the decision... It will be interesting how comments here turn out. About airpush ad blockers not getting banned... I assume that's because Google hates air push as much as us.
  • Fuck you Google. Fuck you!
  • Why such hate? You're blocking Google's only source of income and it's their store, and have you ever heard of side loading? It's not the end of ad blocking by any means, this is just Google's way of saying "we'd prefer if you didn't block our and developers sources of income"
  • I don't give a rat's ass about Google's sources of income. They make enough money off us as it is off of selling our emails, spreadsheets and search queries.
  • The minute Google "sells" any of the data they have about you, it all becomes worth a lot less. Google makes their money by protecting all that data from everyone else, then offering a more personalized ad experience to anyone who wants to use their ad network.
  • Im down with that and a few more things one for instance, writing to external sdcard Fuck them [dick lickers.]
  • just made backups of AdFree & AdAway :)
  • Fuck that shit, trying to control my rooted phone. still got my adaway, and I bet you'll always be able to get the apk on xda or elsewhere. fuckin Apple, oops I mean Google.
  • Wow, that sucks. I just got AdAway installed this morning on a newly rooted device, now it's gone from Google Play. It's one of THE biggest reasons I root my devices so I can use the MVPS blocking hosts file that blocks known malicious websites as well as ads. Frankly I pay for apps when given the opportunity and would prefer it anyway as I hate ads in apps or websites for that matter. Without ad clutter it's a much cleaner user experience IMO, not to mention webpages load faster.
  • The best Android ad-blocker I’ve found is “AdAway”. Now that it’s gone from Google Play, get it from the dev:
  • What happened to open? You can turn off ads on Apple devices with a switch in settings.
  • You can disable ad tracking. Not ads.
  • I find it curious amongst many of my andoid phone using friends. They routinely complain about paying a buck for an app from the market, yet they also dont want add supported free apps either. This is from a group of folks that often discuss this over their favorite $4 to $5 dollar Starbucks drink that they consume almost daily. Personally I have no problem paying for an app that I use on a normal basis.
  • This. No idea why people cry havoc when most awesome apps are often no more than a dollar to buy - and even when they're 5 bucks, it's still plenty cheap, even for 3rd world countries.
  • Ok, Google... fine. But if you're going to do this, then at LEAST clearly mark which apps have ads in the Play store, so I'll know which ones to avoid. I don't mind paying for apps, but ads are unacceptable under ANY circumstance.
  • >> I don't mind paying for apps, but ads are unacceptable under ANY circumstance. This. I'm not going to poke the troll above ("routinely complain"?), but this exactly. If I'm using an app for which there's a free, ad-supported version and a pay, no-ads version -- and I find the app useful enough to use regularly -- absolutely I'll pay for the ad-free experience.
  • In order to respect the rule 4.4, Google should ban tasks killers/managers from the Play Store. Please do it. Oh, and ads pay developers, deal with it.
  • Ads is the way there are free services out there, people who block ads want everything for free, in high quality and no ads? Fuck off...
  • NFC... no, the real one (NOT FUCKING COOL).
  • What's the difference, with latest Jelly Bean update they done so that Adblock Plus does not even work, and developer is saying it is stopping development. So even if they(devs) upload their apps somewhere they still won't function or function minimally
  • Adaway works though.
  • remember, some apps don't offer a paid ad free version. also Fuck the ads online. And yes an ad free phone was the very very first reason I rooted the eVo 4g yrs ago. next was custom kernels. anyways Google can't stop this from happening as we can always install from outside the market. And when this thread is done with new posts, it should be sent to Google, ummmmmmm, actually to be funny it should be spammed to Google so they know how this stupid ad shit feels.
  • I run ad and script blocking software on my workstation browser and my Android phone for security reasons. I work in IT and so many of the browser attacks today come in the form of drive-by banner attacks being served up by hosts who are totally legit like CNN, MSNBC, ESPN etc, it is only a matter of time before the ad servers pushing Android ads are compromised and your phone is owned if it isn't happening already. I will continue to use side loaded ad blocking software as I believe it is unacceptable for my phone to be making random unrequested tcp calls to servers being managed by God only knows who. Yes I am kind of paranoid, but if you've seen what I've seen you would be too.
  • It was about time. Thank you Google.
  • The biggest reason in my opinion to run adblock on android is not to get away from the ads in apps. What I really can't stand are pop-ups in the browser that are not optimized for mobile. On my phone I literally have websites I can't use for a while because the website decided to host a huge screen filling non-resizable ad. Or the new mobile ones that stick at the bottom of the page so I can't see the content I'm reading. I believe for a while phandroid had such an ad and I couldn't view that site comfortably on my phone for weeks. Things to seem to be getting better but it is kind of disappointing that google would suddenly take this very self-centered approach all of a sudden. Also...if they remove adblock plus from Chrome for desktop I will never use the browser again...
  • The people blocking ads would never purposely click an ad anyway. You already need root for these to work. Apparently a lot of people must root for Google to do this. Most likely they are bending over for US carriers. At least we can side load it. I've already tried chrome and switched back to Firefox so I don't care what they do with chrome. Add-ons in Firefox are more useful anyway since developers have more freedom. Just look at the forecast Fox add-on to see the limitations. Thankfully android isn't the only fish in the pond and the more stuff they take away or restrict the more likely I am to leave android behind. Between dick moves like this and forcing Google+ on everyone I'm not surprised android is no longer rising in market share. How long is Titanium Backup going to be available? That allows you to remove carrier bloat which is affecting other apps and I'm sure the carriers don't like it. I'm guessing there are a lot of other cases like this too.
  • A couple years ago Google was able to remove apps from your phone. Can they do that with the ad blocking apps they removed from play store?
  • Not an issue, I'm browsing with Firefox beta with Adblock Plus.
  • Where can I find the apk?
  • I gladly allow the ads in games, apps, and on the web. It's my payment to Google for allowing me to use so many of their services for free. They don't have to give me 5GBs of Drive space or free email with a ton of space but they do.
  • I know this won't be a popular comment, but as a developer I kind of detest ad-blockers. All of my applications are free to download, but only because they are ad-supported. I don't see why you can't just ignore the ads if you don't like them. They're what make my applications (and many other developers') available.
  • If your app is any good, I will gladly pay for it. Forcing ads is equal to forcing me to be manipulated.I rather not be bothered.
  • install the f-droid market and get adaway from there.
  • Jerry, why didn't you mention that there is no place like I can't believe that folks are still using ad blocking Apps when it's simple (on rooted phone) to do host file blocking. Just search for "host file ad blocking" and do a quick read about it. It will speed up your web browsers on all of your computers, regardless is O/S. It even works on cr@ppy iOS devices. Zero cost, just time required to educate yourself about how DNS works. ;-)
  • And if you search for "host file ad blocking android", you'll see that some of the apps we're talking about, like AdAway, do exactly this: it contacts a few servers to get updated hosts files, merges them, and updates your hosts file for you. Why would you do this _manually_ when someone else is already tracking ad and malware IPs?!? AdAway can also optionally set up a mini web server at localhost/ to handle those really pesky ads that require a response and hang things up.
  • Another reason not to be a slave to a stupid gadget. You might think you own it, but it's like having a cat. It really owns you.
  • I really don't see a problem with this and always wondered why Google allowed it in the first place. I believe we are talking about blocking adds in free apps, not a browser plug-in to block website ads. Developers make money one of 2 ways. They either charge a fee for the app, or they receive revenue from ads in their app. Why would anyone want to develop a decent app if they can't make any money on it? I don't use an ad blocker on my phone. I either put up with the ads in the free apps or if I really like the app I buy the "pro" version. I have a nice living wallpaper on my phone. I started with the free version, which actually was ad free but limited. I liked it so I paid for the full version. Same with Pandora. People, you need to help support your developers!
  • Why does it matter if Google removed them from the Play Store. All of these apps are available elsewhere and in third party app stores. AdAway is available in the free open source market F-Droid and there's other stuff there too.
  • Ads are what keeps the Internet (and many apps) free. I don't use any ad blockers because I don't want to have to pay to read great content on sites like AndroidCentral. For the most part, I just ignore them, only occasionally clicking an ad that actually interests me. I also discourage others from using ad blockers because of the damage it does the the Internet ecosystem.
  • You want a free lunch? Food, money, apps; none of them grow on trees (at least without somebody putting in a lot of work to harvest a yield). So despite this knowledge, why support a subversion of a revenue stream for a developer who is trying to survive? That's exactly what it is. Would you actually take a few coins out of a donation jar and throw them in the trash? You wouldn't? Well that's the analogy here. Stop putting kinks in developer revenue streams. It's not a nice thing to cut a man's throat, even slightly. Don't think your particular ad blocking will hurt? Ever heard the term "death from a thousand cuts?"