Google earlier this week pulled a privacy focused app designed to prevent other apps from surreptitiously collecting user data from its Android app store, despite developers’ insistence that it does not violate any of Google’s rules.
Disconnect Mobile was only downloadable from Google Play for five days before Google notified Disconnect of its removal on Tuesday, but during that time the app was downloaded more than 5,000 times according to The Wall Street Journal.
In a Google email to Disconnect explaining the reason for the removal, the Silicon Valley giant — which has come under increasing scrutiny for an apparent growing disregard for user privacy, and use of customer data for profit — said the company does not allow any app on that Android store that “interferes with” other apps. (RELATED: Google Can Now Follow You From The Computer To The Store)
Google provides the Android mobile platform for free, relying on targeted ad revenue based on the data it gathers from users’ devices to generate the OS’s profit. As a result, Google routinely removes ad-blocking applications from its store. (RELATED: Google’s Sneaky New Smartphone Update Collects WAY More Of Your Personal Data Than Ever Before)
Disconnect cofounder Casey Oppenheim believes this is how Google justified removing the company’s app, which has a sister application on Apple’s more privacy friendly and data-sharing customizable iOS iPhone platform. The company also has a desktop version boasting more than 2 million users.
“Disconnect focuses on protecting people from invisible tracking and sources of malware, and all too often these threats come in the form of advertising,” Oppenheim wrote in a Disconnect blog post.
The cofounder said Disconnect Mobile was specifically designed to ensure the app did not violate any of Google’s rules.
“The fact is, we are not opposed to advertising and think advertising plays a critical role in the Internet economy,” Oppenheim wrote. “But we are 100 percent opposed to advertising that invisibly tracks people and compromises their security.”
In a statement to The Journal about the case, Google would only say that its policies “are designed to provide a great experience for users and developers.”
“That’s why we remove apps from Google Play that violate those policies.” (RELATED: Facebook’s New Messenger App Can Invade Your Privacy, But It’s Android’s Fault)