Google is now taking steps to ensure that advertisements meant for mobile devices will be seen, without anything getting in between the mobile user and the marketing content. However, there is reason to believe that in doing so, Google has shown the world a glimpse of its priority list. In this list, it may begin to seem that bringing in the most possible revenue is more important that allowing users to make their own decisions about what they do and do not see on their phones. The issue of consumer choice is what makes Google’s recent actions questionable. Google has now effectively removed applications like AdBlock Plus, AdBlocker, AdAway and AdFree from the Google Play store. In doing so, Google has given users no other option than to be hit with every ad that is headed their way.
Although it is a bit too early to see just how mobile users feel about this change, the people at AdBlock Plus are none too excited about being kicked out of Google Play. In a press release, the company makes known their feelings about Google since this decision.
“Google has crossed a red line by removing the app” and “is placing business interests ahead of user interests.”
“Isn’t Android an open system?” he asked. “We are not interfering with any other apps. We are providing choice. The user should be in charge of what services may access their device – not Google.”
On a deeper, more political level, Till Faida who is co-founder of AdBlock Plus says that users should be very concerned that Google is essentially making decisions for them.
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.
Of course, Google had a reason for taking away these ad blocking applications that can be used as add-ons for most mobile browsers. However, what is up in the air is if, what Google claims as their reasoning, is entirely truthful. Either way, Faida explains what Google claimed to be their motivation for taking away these apps.
Google’s rationale behind removing Adblock Plus is that it violates Section 4.4 of their Developer Distribution Agreement. But today’s action is the third in a string of actions that Google has taken against Adblock Plus: in late February Google began forcing Android users to manually configure a proxy server in order to run Adblock Plus; in December 2012 Google re-categorized Adblock Plus in the Chrome Web store and stopped showing it in search results when users specifically looked for the extension; and when Adblock Plus re-listed as an app on December 12th, Google took it down again 12 hours later.
Other than this, Google has not given any further explanation for their actions, which does in fact seem like something that users and companies like AdBlock Plus deserve. Either way, it seems that this debate, or rather battle, is nowhere near finished. AdBlock Plus has over 200 million downloads on mobile phones, meaning that millions of mobile users will be affected by this decision from Google. And you have to assume that not all of them will accept it very easily.