Developers of popular apps such as AdAway and Ad Blocker have started receiving messages from Google that their apps are being removed from the Play Store, effective immediately. Google justifies this crackdown on ad blocking software using section 4.4 of the Play Store Developer Distribution Agreement, which read:

4.4 Prohibited Actions. 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.

Developers started announcing the take downs on Twitter, with developer jrummy16 tweeting, “Got a notification from Google and it looks like all Ad Blockers were removed from Google Play today.” The message going out to all affected developers appears to be the same:

This is a notification that your application, Ad Blocker ★ Root ★, with package ID com.jrummy.apps.ad.blocker, 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

There appears to be little to no wiggle room here, as ad blocking apps clearly do break the agreement that all developers agree to follow before listing their apps on the Play Store. Granted, this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of these apps altogether, although app developers – and the people who want to use these apps – will have to start getting a little more creative about distribution. Google can’t legally pursue these developers, so they will still be free to distribute these apps in other places.

Of course, questions can be raised about the openness of Android: how Google can do something like this to a platform that is supposed to be completely free and open source? The short and simple answer is that Android can only be open to a point – Google still has to have certain restrictions in place to protect its users’ information, for example, or in this case its own pocketbook. After all, Android’s sole purpose is to be a delivery tool for Google to push more of its own products – and ads – into the hands of consumers.

What do you think about this move by Google?

[Twitter via Android Police | Pastebin]