Google has a brand-new website for content policy on the Play Store that it unveiled today, and that’s nice, but nestled away in that news was a far more interesting story regarding ad blockers. Google has long enforced a de facto ban on ad blockers on the Play Store, citing section 4.4 of the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement, going all the way back to 2013.
This involved a rather convoluted interpretation of a vague policy forbidding apps from interfering with third-party apps or services, but it’s the official justification Google has used to date. Now, a new update to the Play Store Developer Policy Center (formerly Google Play Developer Program Policies) makes it clear via an example interpretation of said policy: no ad blockers.
“We don’t allow apps that interfere with… other… services, including but not limited to other apps on the device, any Google service, or an authorized carrier’s network…
Here are some examples of common violations:
Apps that block or interfere with another app displaying ads.” [emphasis ours]
To be clear, this does not mark a change in policy as far as we know. It is merely the first time Google has directly acknowledged in its content policy document for the Play Store that ad blockers violate Play Store policy. Previously, if you were an ad blocker you’d just get an email pointing to section 4.4 of the old distribution agreement and pretty much nothing else. The implication was clear, but that Google never came out and said directly “ad blockers are against Play Store policy” led some to believe that maybe the policy was being misinterpreted or, perhaps, was still subject to change. Today’s update to the Developer Policy Center seems to finally make clear that Google is taking a stand on ad blockers.
Well, except the most popular kind: in-browser ad