Google has caused a lot of controversy recently due to its app removal policy on the Google Play Store – namely the hypocrisy of its enforcement of the ban on Accessibility API use for non-disability aid functions. And now, to add fuel to the flames, Google has taken down a major player in the mobile broswer market, UC browser, from the Play Store; but for very different reasons.
Google's reason for going after UC, a giant in China and developing markets, is one that can be seen as valid. Google has cited the reason for this takedown as being due to UC's use of misleading promotional tactics. Reddit users have theorised that the malicious redirect ads served up by UC Web's affiliates to inflate installs prompted Google to take action and delist the browser.
Mike Ross, a developer who claims to work for UC Browser, told Gadgets 360 that the browser was "temporarily removed" from the Play Store for 30 days because it "mislead" users into installing it. This isn't the first time UC Browser have been in hot water; an Indian government probe uncovered that UC Browser was sending user data to a remote server this summer, and Google reacted by threatened to ban the app from the Play Store if it was not addressed in an update.
An email received by Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii from UC Union (UC Web's affiliate network) reinforces said theory:
Dear Partner, We hereby emphasis again that UC Union prohibits any and all misleading/malicious advertising method(s) to procure new users when promoting UC Browser campaigns, such as by using slogan inconsistent with the Product functions, or by using inductive slogan.
DO NOT use the Malicious Promotion method(s) or STOP such behavior immediately if you are acting so. Upon discovery a Malicious Promotion, UC Union is entitled to
(i) STOP your payment settlement, or DEDUCT your corresponding payment made to you;
(ii) compensation in recovery of the loss suffered by UC Union, including but not limited to loss of UC Union's good will, loss of users of UC Union Product(s), removal of UC Union Product(s) from Google Play or Apple Store, and any other loss as a result of your Malicious Promotion;
(iii) require you to CLARIFY the facts for elimination of the negative impact shed upon UC Union; and (iv) resort to any other legal measures if necessary.
UC Union is looking forward to cooperating and developing with you in a healthy UC Union ecosphere.
While we'd expect to see UC Browser make a return in the next 30 days, all of these strikes may add up soon, which is not good for UC Browser's hundreds of millions of users (it surpassed 500 Million downloads last month alone, according to XDA). Either way, it's reassuring to see Google looking out for users and their privacy by taking action against developers and apps that are taking advantage of users or user data.
What do you guys think? Do you use UC Browser? Was Google in the right here? Let us know in the comments, or be sure to post over in the forums with your thoughts.