A tool called Disconnect that allows users to block tracking and suspect advertising on their cell phones is back in the Play Store two weeks after Google pulled the app because it violated policies against “interference with other services.” Update: On Tuesday, the app was banned again.
In a press release on Monday morning, Disconnect confirmed that the app, which was available for six days in August and downloaded 5,000 times, is back and is now available on both [company]Google[/company] Android and [company]Apple[/company] iOS. The app itself is a mobile version of a popular desktop ad screener of the same name, which was developed by former Googler Casey Oppenheim and a former NSA engineer, Patrick Jackson.
The company says it is not opposed to all ads, but only those that are invasive or use trickery to gain user data.
“We are not an ad blocker and we are not at all opposed to advertising. But we are 100% opposed to ads that threaten consumer privacy and security. We are committed to un-blocking any companies on our filter lists if we verify that they respect consumer safety and privacy,” [company]Disconnect[/company] said in the release.
Google’s initial decision to pull the app led to an outcry from privacy advocates who asked why users shouldn’t have the same sort of control over their mobile devices as they do on their desktops, where Disconnect has long been available. The service, which is akin to tools like [company]Ghostery[/company], permits users to see which companies are obtaining data as they visit various websites, and lets them ban or white-list sites.
In the case of Disconnect’s mobile service, which comes in addition to its private search offering, the tool could be helpful given that some companies use ordinary-looking mobile ads as a way to scrape valuable personal data from users’ phones.
In an email, Oppenheim downplayed the recent dispute with Google, whose policies he had earlier liked to a “Kafka novel.”
“[W]e’re back in the Play Store and excited to finally focus on telling folks about how awesome this app is rather than the fact that it wasn’t available to a billion Android users.”