Developers need better protections against app store owners like Google and Apple, the CEO of an app that was briefly banned from Google’s Play Store says.
After the story of the banned app went viral, Casey Oppenheim, cofounder and CEO of Disconnect, prevailed. Google backtracked and put the app back into its Play Store.
We asked Oppenheim what other developers could learn from this tale. He offered this interesting idea:
“My only advice for other app developers is that we all need to come together and push forward on a developer bill of rights, to insure that the major mobile app distribution platforms are held more accountable for their decisions,” he told Business Insider.
To recap: Late last month the Disconnect team was shocked to get a letter from Google saying that its app had been booted from Google’s app store. (See Google’s actual letter here).
Google listed a lot of dire consequences should the developer continue to violate Google’s policies, but offered little detail as to what the actual problem with the app was. It merely pointed to section 4.4 of the Developer Distribution Agreement, a broadly worded policy saying an app can be banned if it “interferes with” other developer’s apps or servers.
The Disconnect app blocks advertisements from planting tracking software onto your device without your consent. Sometimes, such tracking software even contains malware.
The team believed that Google classified the app as an ad blocker, which Google has famously banned before, given that Google gives Android away for free and makes nearly all of its money selling ads.
But Disconnect considers itself a security/privacy app, not an ad blocker, and says it specifically wrote the app to meet all of Google’s policies.
After Disconnect resubmitted the app, and, without saying why, Google accepted the app back into its app store.
If anyone on Earth know what ads are secretly doing, its the cofounders of Disconnect. One of them is Brian Kennish who spent seven years working as an early DoubleClick/Google engineer, helping to create the company’s first mobile ad server and among other projects for AdWords and AdSense, his LinkedIn profile says.
His Disconnect bio is the opposite. It says, “Brian is the original developer of Disconnect. He spent many years tracking users as an engineer for DoubleClick then Google but now, like George in episode 86 of Seinfeld, is doing the complete opposite.”
After the controversy, people were gossiping that the app got banned due to some bad blood between Disconnect and Google, and was reinstated through its connections to Google.
Not true, Oppenheim told us, “I really don’t believe our Google connections had anything to do with the ban or the fact we’re back in the Play Store.”
Oppenheim was not previously a Google engineer. He was an attorney and consumer rights advocate.
As for his idea of a developer’s bill of rights, here’s one thing a source close to Google tells us. Google isn’t as iron-fisted about its app store as Apple is. Android doesn’t stop users from downloading apps outside Google’s Play Store, for example. So people are free to install apps from wherever they want, even if Google doesn’t approve.
We reached out to Google for comment and will update when we hear back.