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Ad-titan Google blocks Adblock Plus in Android security tweak

We're being singled out, claims app maker

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The maker of Adblock Plus is upset its users must jump through hoops to get its advert-banishing app working on devices running Android - the mobile OS made by advertising giant Google.

The complaint follows moves by Google that made it more difficult for Google Chrome users to use Adblock Plus as a browser extension.

The Android app no longer works out of the box on non-rooted devices running Android 4.1.2 or 4.2.2. Instead it shows a warning box telling users they must manually configure a proxy server: that's because the app works by routing web traffic through a server running on the handheld that filters out websites' adverts before they appear in a browser.

But Google took the position that there is a significant security risk in allowing software to automatically redirect web connections in this manner. The internet giant has now fenced off proxy configuration because malicious programs can use it to intercept users' data and endanger their privacy.

It's this change that's stopping the Adblock Plus app from working unless the user gets busy in the device's proxy settings to allow the app to receive web traffic.

The ad-blocking firm flagged up the drawbacks to the update on the official Android OS development site. Meanwhile Adblock Plus has published a workaround allowing users to continue using its software.

But the suggested solution is an eight-stage process, as illustrated in this guide for Galaxy S3 smartphone owners.

Till Faida, co-founder of the Adblock Plus project, told El Reg: "We are not opposed to the fix per se. We just think Google shouldn't deliberately break any functionality when fixing something. That's why we are hoping Google will not ignore the issue we have created on the Google code forums and provide a solution that addresses security concerns and still respects user's choices."

In Chrome land, Google changed the way users could search for its web browser's apps, and since Adblock Plus was established as an extension, the utility stopped appearing when users looked for apps. Adblock Plus switched to offering a Chrome app on 12 December, only for Google to take it down 12 hours later. The software's maker accused Google of singling out the utility, which we're told has been downloaded 190 million times for Firefox, for unfavourable treatment - and cast the Android security tweaks as the latest skirmish in a long-running battle.

Google is yet to respond to a request from El Reg to expand on the thinking behind its Android security update. We'll update this story as and when we hear more. ®

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