Is Google really going to block ad-hiding VPNs on Android?

Is Google really going to block ad-hiding VPNs on Android?
Is Google really going to block ad-hiding VPNs on Android?

Is your favorite VPN app in danger of being banned from the Play Store because of its ad blocking feature? Although a change in Google policy suggests this, the situation needs to be qualified.

Google is about to block some apps that hide advertising on Android. In any case, this is what changes in the rules of use of the Play Store which will come into force from November 1, 2022 suggest. More specifically, it is VPNs that block advertisements that are targeted.

DuckDuckGo, ProtonVPN and the others threatened?

Announced last month, changes to the Play Store’s welcome policy state in black and white that a VPN provider has a presence on the Android app store”cannot use its service to manipulate ads that impact the monetization of certain appsThe change is presented as a way to protect the personal information of Internet users, who could be misled by VPNs that would repatriate browsing data and trade ad placements for others.

VPNs that block ads on Android are plentiful today. Services like ProtonVPN or DuckDuckGo embed this kind of functionality which filters all internet traffic arriving on the device in order to block advertisements, trackers and other malicious software capable of hiding behind a web page. These changes in Google’s policy therefore raise fears of an exclusion of these applications from the Play Store. But the reality is more nuanced.

The panic started from a blog post published by Reda Labdaoui, the marketing manager of Blockada, a software that blocks ads on Android using a VPN. According to the manager, Google will “penalize ad filtering and tracking apps” on Android from November 1st. Except that… Google already bans apps that block ads on Android. The guidelines for publishing apps on the Google Play Store have long stated that “apps that block or disrupt the display of ads from another app” violate the rules of the application store. This did not prevent the services mentioned above from being hosted on the Play Store.

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Google technically already bans ad blockers

It would therefore seem that Google is currently showing a certain tolerance towards apps that operate a blocking of advertisements. It is therefore not excluded that this change of policy will be accompanied by a severe turn of the screw on these applications in particular, even if for the moment, ProtonVPN, DuckDuckGo and others seem spared. Even better, contacted by The Register, a spokesperson for DuckDuckGo explained that the firm “does not think it will be impacted by this change in policy, even if the teams continue to dig into the subject“. It could indeed be that future developments only concern applications that filter advertisements using a VPN profile installed locally on the phone.

Many applications, including version 6 of Blockada that Reda Labdaoui conveniently highlights in his blog post, offer ad blocking on Android thanks to filtering carried out by the VPN server and not by the phone or tablet in question. herself. This upstream filtering is almost impossible for Google to block, since the process takes place on servers that do not belong to the firm. It is certainly possible that Google will start censoring all applications suspected of blocking advertisements in this way, but a priori none of the companies which publish this type of application have yet cried out loud… which suggests that there is no panic on board yet.

And if by chance Google were to apply its new content hosting policy with particular zeal, there are plenty of other application stores on Android that would no doubt be happy to welcome apps that have been dropped. outside the Play Store. We think in particular of F-Droid, the store of free applications competing with the Play Store.

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The article is in French

Tags: Google block adhiding VPNs Android

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