Google’s (GOOG) mobile platform is all about freedom: the freedom to install any application on a device, the freedom to change the Android code and the freedom for companies to use the operating system at no cost. Google’s policy is much different from Apple’s (AAPL) closed approach, and it has helped Android gain significant market share. But a recent Google policy change could spell trouble for consumers, companies and app developers.
Earlier this month, Google began to remove ad-blocking applications such as AdBlock from the Play Store. The company claimed these programs were violating Google’s Developer Distribution Agreement by interfering with or accessing another service or product in an unauthorized manner. In reality, it was hurting Google’s revenue stream.
As noted by Peter Eckersley of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the policy change “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.”
Though malware apps can be found easily on Google Play, the company seems more interesting in protecting its own interests rather than users. Not only does AdBlock remove advertisements from applications and web browsers, it is also the only way for users to protect themselves against third-party tracking cookies. What could be next for Google? Will the company combat rooted applications that can control other parts of the operating system such as permission controls?
While applications like AdBlock can still be installed through side-loading methods, the days of Google’s “don’t be evil” policy seem to be long gone.