Google has banned the AdNauseam Chrome extension from the Chrome Web Store, an add-on that became very popular with users because it automatically clicked on all ads on a page.
According to the AdNauseam developers, Google has not contacted the add-on makers beforehand about their plans, nor did Google bother explaining its decision beyond a simple phrase.
Nevertheless, when Google bans a Chrome extension, it also takes proactive steps that prevent users from updating or re-installing the add-on. This mechanism helps Google ban malware-laced Chrome extension, but it can inadvertently serve as a tool to blackball developers or any unwanted add-ons.
According to a statement published by the AdNauseam team, Google banned their project on January 1, 2017, with the explanation that "An extension should have a single purpose that is clear to users…"
Repeated attempts from the AdNauseam team requesting more information about what Google meant have not been answered.
"To be clear, AdNauseam has a single purpose which we believe to be readily apparent to users; namely to fight back against the mass surveillance conducted by advertising networks, of which Google is a prime example," the AdNauseam team wrote.
"We can certainly understand why Google would prefer users not to install AdNauseam, as it directly opposes their core business model, but the Web Store’s Terms of Service do not (at least thus far) require extensions to endorse Google’s business model. Moreover, this is not the justification cited for the software’s removal."
The real problem may lie with one of AdNauseam's configurable features that allows the extension to issue fake clicks on all ads on a page.
For the past three years, the AdNauseam extension has helped users mask their online presence by clicking on all adds and preventing advertisers from building a reliable profile on the user's behavior. This might be the behavior the Google team is trying to block, as advertising is Google's main revenue line.
In the meantime, the AdNauseam team has resubmitted their extension for review, hoping to have it reinstated. This time around they say they've carefully reworded the options in the plugin's settings page, in order to be clearer and more transparent about its behavior.
"While we hope that Google will lift these unwarranted sanctions for AdNauseam, it highlights a much more serious problem for Chrome users," the AdNauseam team adds. "It is frightening to think that at any moment Google can quietly make your extensions and data disappear, without so much as a warning."
Users that want to bypass Google's ban and install the extension can do so by following this tutorial that shows them how to load the extension using Chrome's Developer Mode.