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Disconnect.Me files antitrust case against Google for banned app

Disconnect Inc. has filed an anti-trust case against Google in Europe, claiming that the company abused its position when it banned its app.

Published onJune 2, 2015

Disconnect Me

Google is already facing a legal battle in Europe to determine if it has been abusing its dominant market position, and now Disconnect Inc. is piling on the pressure with its own a case against the technology giant, claiming that the company abused its position when it banned its app.

The Disconnect Android app aimed to block ads and third party tracking software, along with any potential injections of malware. It was banned from the Google Play Store for breaching Google’s terms and conditions.

“Disconnect charges Google with abusing its dominant market position by banning Disconnect’s app, a revolutionary technology that protects users from invisible tracking and malvertising, malware served through advertisements,” – Disconnect.Me

Specifically, Google points to clause 4.4 of its Google Play policy, which prohibits apps on the store from interfering with other apps, either by altering their functionality or by removing their way of making money. By removing ads, Disconnect could be used to deprive developers of revenue. Given that the freemium app segment continues to grow at a strong pace, Google and app developers are clearly interested in preserving their revenue streams.

“Our Google Play policies (specifically clause 4.4) have long prohibited apps that interfere with other apps. We apply this policy uniformly — and Android developers strongly support it. All apps must comply with these policies and there’s over 200 privacy apps available in Google Play that do.” – Google

The case becomes a little more complicated though, as Disconnect claims that it’s not trying to disable all ads, but is offering users the option to protect themselves from invisible tracking and malware, stating that advertising doesn’t have to violate user privacy and security to be successful. The company has referenced several article on the subject of privacy and ads in the past, but clearly hasn’t persuaded Google of the case.

Google had previously blocked the app two times in the past year, leaving the developers to offer the app as a side-loadable apk. The company has filed the lawsuit with Google in pursuit of “equal treatment” so that all Android users can access its app. It is also not clear exactly what compensation the company is after as well, if anyway.

The choice to file a complaint in Europe, rather than say in the US, is most likely to capitalize on the growing legal hostility towards the tech giant in Europe. Disconnect’s case could also be merged with other anti-trust complains on the continent.

Where do you stand on the issue of privacy and ads?

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