Google will cripple Android VPN services that threaten to break advertisements

silversurfer

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Google seems to be safeguarding its advertising business. The company has confirmed that it will prohibit Android VPN apps on its Play store from interfering with or blocking advertising. Needless to add, this decision could help Google, but it may pose problems for some applications that need privacy and secure transmission of data.

The updated Google Play policy, which outlines specific requirements for VPN services that work on Android devices, was announced last month. It will take effect on November 1.

Google basically asks all VPN service providers to use the Android VPNService base class. Apps that explicitly confirm they offer VPN services and choose to use Google’s VPN API, would be allowed to open a secure device-level tunnel to a remote service.

However, no VPN service should, “manipulate ads that can impact apps monetization”. In other words, VPN service providers may open a secure device-level channel for data exchange that takes place via a remote service. However, services will have to ensure that apps and services that pass through the VPN tunnel retain their communication to ad servers.

The revised Terms and Conditions state that developers must declare the use of VPNservice in their apps' Google Play listing, must encrypt data from the device to the VPN endpoint, and must comply with Developer Program Policies, particularly those related to ad fraud, permissions, and malware.
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Ok...
Can someone with more technical insight than me tell me if this affects Adguard on Android?
Adguard android app creates a local VPN mode in order to work on a not-rooted device.
I think this doesn't affect them.
This is only for apps listed in the play store and AdGuard is installed outside the play store with an APK file.
 

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The rules appear to be intended to deter data-grabbing VPN services, such as Facebook's discontinued Onavo, and to prevent ad fraud. The T&Cs spell out that developers must declare the use of VPNservice in their apps' Google Play listing, must encrypt data from the device to the VPN endpoint, and must comply with Developer Program Policies, particularly those related to ad fraud, permissions, and malware.

Blokada, a Sweden-based maker of an ad-blocking VPN app, worries this rule will hinder at least the previous iteration of its software, v5, and other privacy-oriented software. "Google claims to be cracking down on apps that are using the VPN service to track user data or rerouting user traffic to earn money through ads," Reda Labdaoui, marketing and sales manager at Blokada, wrote last week in a a forum post. "However, these policy changes also apply to apps that use the service to filter traffic locally on the device." Labdaoui suggests Blokada v6, which launched in June, should not be affected because it does filtering in the cloud without violating Google's device policies. But other apps may not be so fortunate.

Labdaoui points to the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser for Android, which creates a local VPN service to make its App Tracking Protection block tracker server connections, as a potential casualty of the new Play policy.
DuckDuckGo, however, isn't convinced. "We don't believe we’ll be impacted by the policy but our team is continuing to review it," a spokesperson for the company told The Register in an email.

Another app that could be affected is Jumbo for Android, which also appears to utilize VPN-related code to block trackers.

Google's policy is not unique. Apple's iOS App Store includes a similar requirement to use a specific VPN API, named NEVPNManager, which is available only to developers who are part of an organization, not unaffiliated individual developers.
Google for years has disallowed Android apps that block ads in other Android apps (with the exception of browsers), and its Chrome Web Store includes language that could be used to ban ad blocking extensions if Google chose to do so.
 

Gangelo

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I think this doesn't affect them.
This is only for apps listed in the play store and AdGuard is installed outside the play store with an APK file
Hopefully yes.
My concern is if they somehow cripple the local VPN of Adguard as it's only purpose is to funnel all data in order to apply the filterlists.
 
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Mystic

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If this happens to affect Adguard, one can always use secure dns functionality (NextDNS and Adguard DNS). We also still have uBlock Origin for Firefox Android.
 

jogs

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This is why I never like the idea of app store, its creates kind of monopoly.
But atleast we can sideload apps in Android.
VPN apps can always offer apks for direct download from their site which have more functionality than those in the app store.
Adguard has been doing this for long time.
 
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TedCruz

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If this happens to affect Adguard, one can always use secure dns functionality (NextDNS and Adguard DNS). We also still have uBlock Origin for Firefox Android.
Those are not that effective in many apps that I have. If I disable Adguard and use only NextDns then many in app advertising platforms are not blocked. Browser ads are blocked but not ads in some apps. Now once I enable Adguard the ads get blocked. YouTube ad blocking is either accompanied by running a modded YouTube app or running YouTube through AdGuard.
 
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Mystic

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Those are not that effective in many apps that I have. If I disable Adguard and use only NextDns then many in app advertising platforms are not blocked. Browser ads are blocked but not ads in some apps. Now once I enable Adguard the ads get blocked. YouTube ad blocking is either accompanied by running a modded YouTube app or running YouTube through AdGuard.
May I ask what blacklists have you enabled in NextDNS?
 
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TedCruz

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May I ask what blacklists have you enabled in NextDNS?
Pics are worth a 1000 words (there is few more but those others are nation specific). Also, reddit app...with AdGuard on and Adguard Off.
Screenshot_20220831-105558.pngScreenshot_20220831-105550.pngScreenshot_20220831-105542.pngScreenshot_20220831-110016.pngScreenshot_20220831-110028.png
 
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Telos

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OK... but I VPN to my RPi running AdGuardHome. Problem solved.
 

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