Android Vpn Providers That Threaten To Obstruct Advertisements Will Suffer Consequences From Google.

by | Mar 7, 2024

In November, Google will make it illegal for Android VPN apps to interfere with or restrict advertising in its Play store. This move might cause issues for some privacy-related apps.

The Revised Google Play guidelines will go into effect on November 1st, as was previously promised. According to this, only applications that primarily serve as VPNs and use the Android VPNService base class are permitted to establish a secure device-level tunnel to a remote service.

However, such VPNs are unable to “manipulate advertisements that might damage apps profitability.”

Google appears to be protecting its ad business. The business has stated that it will restrict Android VPN apps from obstructing or influencing advertising in its Play store. It goes without saying that although this choice may benefit Google, it might be problematic for other apps that require secure data transmission and privacy.

In essence, Google requires all VPN providers to make use of the Android VPNService base class. Apps that choose to utilise Google’s VPN API and expressly state they provide VPN services will be able to open a secure device-level tunnel to a distant service.

The regulations appear to be designed to discourage data-snatching VPN providers, like Facebook’s now-defunct Onavo, and to stop ad fraud. According to the T&Cs, developers must disclose their use of VPN services in their Google Play app listings, encrypt data travelling from the device to the VPN endpoint, and adhere to Developer Program Policies, including those pertaining to malware, ad fraud, and permissions.

The developer of an ad-blocking VPN application from Sweden,Blokada is concerned that this restriction would make it difficult to use at least the previous version of its software, v5, and other privacy-focused apps.

According to Reda Labdaoui, marketing and sales manager at Blokada, “Google claims to be cracking down on apps that are exploiting the VPN service to collect user data or reroute user traffic to gain money through advertisements.”

These policy adjustments, however, also apply to applications that use the service to filter traffic locally on the device. Blokada v6, which launched in June, should not be impacted, according to Labdaoui, because it does filtering on the cloud without infringing on Google’s device policies. Other applications might not be as lucky, though.

A likely victim of the new Play policy is the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser for Android, which establishes a local VPN service to make its App Tracking Protection prevent tracker server connections.

Jumbo for Android, which similarly seems to use VPN-related code to prevent trackers, is another app that may be impacted.

The approach taken by Google is not unusual. Similar restrictions on the usage of a certain VPN API, called NEVPNManager are present in Apple’s iOS App Store. These restrictions apply to organization-affiliated developers exclusively, not to independent developers.

IOS guidelines include, “Before any user action to pay or otherwise utilise the service, you must make it clear on an app screen what user data will be collected and how it will be used. The privacy policies of apps that provide VPN services must state that no data will be sold, used, or disclosed to third parties for any reason.”

Although Apple’s VPN policies do not expressly address interfering with advertisements, it is probable that there is enough flexibility in the iOS policies for Apple to prohibit an iOS software if it so desires.

With the exception of browsers, Google has long prohibited Android applications that block advertisements in other Android apps, and the language in its Chrome Web Store could be used to forbid ad blocking extensions if Google so desired. As an illustration, “We don’t accept content that interferes with or impairs the functioning of the networks, servers, or other infrastructure of Google or any third parties.”

The upcoming Manifest v3 shift, though, appears to be likely to render such extensions less competent, Google has insisted that it wants to allow developers to “build safer and more performant ad blocks.”