Blog Post

Google yanks privacy app Disconnect less than 24 hours after allowing it back into Play store

Disconnect Mobile, an app designed by a former Googler and a former NSA engineer that purports to block ads that track activities on your phone, is gone from the Google Play store — again.

On Tuesday, [company]Disconnect[/company] co-founder Casey Oppenheim said by email that [company]Google[/company] has booted the app out of its Android Play Store without explanation. The eviction came barely 20 hours after the app’s formal launch, and is the second time Google has banned it.

The first ban came in August when Disconnect Mobile appeared in the [company]Google[/company] Play Store for five days, accruing over 5,000 downloads despite the lack of any publicity. In its second short stint in the Play Store, Oppenheim says it was downloaded more than 20,000 times. He also confirmed that the app is still available on [company]Apple[/company] iTunes.

Disconnect Mobile has gained some attention among privacy types, owing to the pedigree of its founders and to the reputation of its Disconnect browser plug-in, which blocks web-tracking tools. The company also offers private search tools that are bundled on a so-called Blackphone.

Google provided the following statement: “While we don’t comment on specific apps, we can confirm that our 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.”

The company added that the decision to remove the app on Tuesday occurred for the same reason as in August. That earlier ban came as a result of Disconnect Mobile allegedly violating a Google Play term of service regarding “interference with other services.”

Under the app approval process for Google Play, an app will be added to the store provided it passes an automated screening for malware. Google Play may subsequently remove the app if the company subsequently discovers it violates the terms of service.

This story was updated at 3:40pm ET to include Google’s response.

2 Responses to “Google yanks privacy app Disconnect less than 24 hours after allowing it back into Play store”

  1. Google provided the following statement: “While we don’t comment on specific apps, we can confirm that our 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.”

    The important question to ask is, “Do Google’s policies maximize the freedom of the end user to understand and control how his or her personal data is used, or do they maximize the freedom of Google to use the data in ways that benefit Google but that may not be in the best interests of the user.