European regulators have been notified by Disconnect, an app developer that, according to them, Google is actively abusing its position as the leading mobile-operating system in the world with Android.
Google banned the Disconnect app from its Play store (the mobile app store) last year, citing reasons for violating a policy that prohibits software that interferes with other apps.
The complaint and the reasons behind it
In a complaint lodged with the European Commission’s Competition Directorate, Disconnect Inc. said that Google abused its position at the very top of Europe’s mobile market to discriminate against Disconnect to favor its own privacy and security software. The complaint also contends that the Disconnect app was removed from the Play Store “because it blocks third party and other mobile applications from serving ads that Google and others sell.”
“We don’t oppose advertising and understand ad revenue is critically important to many Internet companies, publishers and developers,” Disconnect Co-founder and CEO Casey Oppenheim said on Tuesday. “But users have the right to protect themselves from invisible tracking and malware, both of which put sensitive personal information at risk. Advertising doesn’t have to violate user privacy and security.”
Disconnect has asked the European Commission and anti-trust regulators to require Google to put the company’s apps back on the Play Store. They’ve also alleged that Google has picked on the Disconnect app specifically and ask that Google treats the Disconnect app the same way it treats its own privacy and security applications and software.
“First, Google has integrated its own ineffective privacy and security ‘features’ into its dominant products, thereby giving itself an unfair market advantage and harming consumers in the process,” Disconnect wrote in a statement. “Second, Google has used its market power to discriminate against Disconnect, by denying Disconnect access to the distribution and other benefits that come with being in the Play Store.”
Disconnect also stressed that their app did not interfere or block legitimate ads or tracking and only focused on blocking those ads which were “potential sources of malware” or if the trackers and ads were “used for invisible, unsolicited or non-consensual tracking.”
Google responded sharply, saying the allegations were “baseless” and stated that the Disconnect app violates the Android developer’s platform and the Play Store’s policies.
Google under the scanner
The complaint adds on to an ongoing investigation by the European Commission into Android. The concern among regulators is with the means through which Google exerts its power with its stronghold of the majority of the world’s smartphones and tablets.
The investigation by the European Commission into Google’s dominance continues. In an added twist to proceedings of the complaint, the founders of Disconnect are former Google employees.