back to article Google Play to ban Android VPN apps from interfering with ads

Google in November will prohibit Android VPN apps in its Play store from interfering with or blocking advertising, a change that may pose problems for some privacy applications. The updated Google Play policy, announced last month, will take effect on November 1. It states that only apps using the Android VPNService base class …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get an Apple.

    Who wants to see ads on a small screen? All the more reason to dump Android in favor of iOS.

    1. Falmari Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Get an Apple.

      So swap ads for leaky VPNs https://www.theregister.com/2022/08/19/apple_ios_vpn/.

      Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

        What phone do you use?

        1. msknight

          Re: Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

          I use Sailfish, for what it's worth. Official version with dalvik support for side loading android apps.

        2. Hubert Cumberdale

          Re: Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

          I have one of these. Great at blocking ads. And everything else. It does have a version of the internet, but it's basically unusable, which I personally find to be a bonus.

          (Also, I just went to a festival for the weekend and came back with 80% battery left. I might have to charge it next week.)

          1. Evil Scot

            Re: Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

            Leeds or Lincoln festival?

            1. Hubert Cumberdale

              Re: Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

              Nope, neither. Oranges are not the only fruit.

              (It's on that list, but I like to limit what I give away about my offline self on here.)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

          I have Lineageos, but importantly without GAPPS or even MicroG apps, so no Google Play services any near my phone.

          Often people conflate and confuse Android and Google Play services, not helped by articles like this that seem to refer to both interchangably. It is entirely possible to have one without the other, even if it does sometimes involve a little extra effort.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @sabroni - Re: Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

          I have an Android with no Google account, no apps and I refrain from accessing Internet (my desktops are more than suitable for that task). All Google applications that can be stopped have been stopped. Phone calls, camera and SMS are all I ever needed. Before you ask more questions, let's just say that as a grey beard I'm not that attracted to the mobile paradigm.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: @sabroni - Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

            I refrain from accessing Internet (my desktops are more than suitable for that task).

            I find my desktops are a bit awkward to carry with me when shopping.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @werdsmith - Re: @sabroni - Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

              Speaking for myself, so far I was always able to do the research and make shopping decision before leaving home. Or just do the shopping on the Internet on my 24in display. My eyes are not as good as they were when I was younger. I have difficulties reading on small screens and to stop, search in my backpack to fetch my eye glasses each time I need to read something on my phone it's too much hassle.

          2. Auntie Dix
            Go

            Re: I have an Android with no Google account, no apps...and I refrain from accessing Internet...

            Same thing here.

            The only reason that I own a "smartphone" is that U.S. carriers turned off 3G. The only reason that I used a 3G phone is that U.S. carriers had turned off 2G.

            I held out and received free, good-quality replacement phones each time.

            The transition to smartphone has sapped a lot of time, to turn off, disable, and remove mostly privacy-invading crap.

            The only benefit of the toy? A much better camera, which is important to me, now that the digital-camera market has been clobbered by "good enough" smartphones.

            "Booting" a phone...what a F-ing time-wasting annoyance! Same goes for new TVs, which I have avoided.

            It is like waiting for a picture tube to warm up...but it takes longer!

          3. Updraft102

            Re: @sabroni - Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

            They can all be stopped, and removed, if you root.

        5. Falmari Silver badge

          Re: Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

          @sabroni "What phone do you use?"

          I use a Fairphone 4 with e/OS. e/OS is a fork of LineageOS and Android with all the proprietary Google apps and services removed. So no Google account*.

          I still have to be careful when installing apps and only choose apps that don't track etc. That requires looking at permissions and trackers info in the store before installing.

          *Actually I have never had a Google account.

        6. Updraft102

          Re: Personally I won't use either Google Android or Apple iOS.

          I use a phone running LineageOS with Micro-G, and no GApps. If you are going to take an AOSP OS like Lineage and then saddle it with GApps, what are you even doing? I guess it is a way to get updates once the manufacturer has forgotten the device exists after a year or two (or three, for Pixels), but you are just putting the data slurping right back on there if you do that.

          The Micro-G bit allows many apps that depend on Google services to work even though there are no Google services on the device. The advertising ID changes each time it is queried, so no persistent ID. It redirects calls to Google Maps to use Open Street Maps, and it works well. I use a GPS testing app that "requires Google Maps" to show the device's location... without Micro-G, it simply asks me if I would like to install Google Maps (um, no, I would not). With Micro-G, it seamlessly works with an alternative map, so smoothly that I didn't even know it was supposedly using Google Maps until I ran the same app on a phone without GApps or Micro-G. T

          F-Droid comes with the distro, saving me the effort of installing it myself, and from there I can install Aurora to download apps from Google Play without signing in. If I can get something that works on F-Droid, that is my first choice, as everything on F-Droid is open source and free of trackers, but often that is not the case. Micro-G makes the app think Google Play is on the phone, but any telemetry or tracking that goes through play is stripped by Micro-G.

  2. fb2k

    I take it OpenVPN with Pihole running at home will still work.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I damn well hope so

    2. Altrux

      WireGuard

      OpenVPN? Proper old-skool - worth an upgrade to WireGuard, I would suggest?

      1. Anonymous Cabbage

        Re: WireGuard

        That'd be the WireGuard whose MacOS version is a closed-source blob which can only be downloaded from the App Store, yes? It's possible to build *something* from the available source, but important functionality seems to be missing. Being able to download something via an app store can be convenient for many users, but if it's the only way to get it, that sets off massive alarm bells, especially for security software.

        I'll stick to OpenVPN until WireGuard do proper releases.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: WireGuard

          You're using MacOS, pretty much your entire operating system is a closed-source blob, but a VPN client you can't compile is across the line?

        2. allyw

          Re: WireGuard

          It's open source, available under the MIT license.

          Instructions for cloning the repo and building it are here: https://git.zx2c4.com/wireguard-apple/about/

          Which functionality is missing when compiling it yourself?

  3. Solviva

    Sideload

    Amazon devices already have this policy. NordVPN (probably others too) offer a non-ad blocking VPN app in the Amazon store, with a notice if you want ad-blocking you need to download and install that version yourself. So sounds like the same will happen with regular Android VPN apps, you just need to sideload the ad-blocking version if that's what you want. The only restriction is they aren't allowed in the Play Shop.

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: Sideload

      Yup, came here to say this, just download the APK and Robert's your Mother's Brother

  4. ChoHag Silver badge

    NEVPN

    The Never Private Network?

  5. TheProf

    Sideload

    " prohibit Android VPN apps in its Play store"

    If I sideload a VPN app will it work or are Google going to 'tinker under the hood' and stop VPN access full stop?

    If I have to watch ads while using the Scrabble Go app then I'm ditching Scrabble Go.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Questionable

    If this goes ahead I'd expect a slew of legal cases and possibly even anti-trust cases because it is not legal to prohibit people from avoiding ads. There have been numerous cases which have asserted people's right to use ad-blockers in browsers or elsewhere. Furthermore, this is quite obviously an attempt to cement the primacy of Google's advertising services via the Play Store. Abuse of this could lead to the primacy of the Play Store on Android being threatened: something like the browser choice banner of yore; or Google being forced to choose between an ad network or a store provide.

    Whatever, those of us that don't like ads will simply continue to run blockers, side-loading them if necessay.

  7. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

    For web browsing or watching YouTube on your Android phone just install Firefox and Unlock Origin, then disable Chrome and the YouTube app. Voila, no adverts.

    1. iron Silver badge

      uBlock Origin but yeah.

      1. Trenjeska
        Pirate

        And set youtube to load in desktop mode from Firefox, so music/talking head videos keep playing in the background

      2. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

        "uBlock Origin but yeah"

        Perhaps I need to disable the spelling checker as well...

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Actually, what you want is Vanced. It was so good Google forced them to stop working on it but the APKs are still around. Not only does it block ads but it also runs in the background and with the screen off.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        That's going to eventually stop working as Google makes server-side changes to YouTube but Vanced stays the same now it's been closed down... and as they went after Vanced they may even be bothered enough to try to help that process along.

        NewPipe?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anti privacy company denies advertisement free web use (alt headline)

    "Google for years has disallowed Android apps that block ads"

    They won't let you see the web without them shoving their *** in your face.

    They serve more malware (playstore) than any other source on the web

    They turn in political opponents to oppressive governments (china)

    They hijack all the links in gmail so they get add hits if you click

    What's not to love about the goog?

  9. richdin

    Two words

    Pi Hole

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Two words

      Is there a PI-hole app for Android?

    2. Alumoi Silver badge

      Re: Two words

      root & firewall

      1. Updraft102

        Re: Two words

        AdAway is great if you are rooted. It's on Google's "naughty" list, but it is on F-Droid.

  10. hayzoos

    Wireguard instead of pi hole because

    I cannot trust my ISP (Comcast). Therefore, setting up pi-hole would be giving all to Comcast instead. I use Wireguard with a server hosted at Digital Ocean (subject to change at any moment).

    I can block traffic at the wireguard server as well as a pi-hole implementation and Comcast is none the wiser.

    It seems as though that wireguard may be targeted by Google's new policy based on my use case.

    Most websites trying to geolocate are off by about 350 miles though from home an usually worse when on travel. That geolocation thing can range from humorous to annoying to unworkable.

    A second issue is using Digital Ocean as the host for the server. Cloudflare provides "securtiy" services along side its CDN services but does it half-assed. So many of the Cloudflare customers then half-ass the "firewall" configuration. This multi-factor half-assery results in the lazy blocking of entire ASNs such as Digital Ocean's with Cloudflare passing the buck and their customer unreachable do to the block. Would it surprise you that they do not implement common mailboxes like admin@[domain] or webmaster@[domian]?

  11. Tempest
    FAIL

    Want To Bet?

    "apps using the Android VPNService base class"

    Statements like this are RED FLAGS to hackers.

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