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Google to developers: We take down your extension, because we can


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Wladimir Palant's (AdBlock Plus creator) notes
Musings about extensions, security and some more

 

Today, I found this email from Google in my inbox:

We routinely review items in the Chrome Web Store for compliance with our Program policies to ensure a safe and trusted experience for our users. We recently found that your item, “Google search link fix,” with ID: cekfddagaicikmgoheekchngpadahmlf, did not comply with our Developer Program Policies. Your item did not comply with the following section of our policy:

 

We may remove your item if it has a blank description field, or missing icons or screenshots, and appears to be suspicious. Your item is still published, but is at risk of being removed from the Web Store.

 

Please make the above changes within 7 days in order to avoid removal.

Not sure why Google chose the wrong email address to contact me about this (the account is associated with another email address) but luckily this email found me. I opened the extension listing and the description is there, as is the icon. What’s missing is a screenshot, simply because creating one for an extension without a user interface isn’t trivial. No problem, spent a bit of time making something that will do to illustrate the principle.

 

And then I got another mail from Google, exactly 2 hours 30 minutes after the first one:

We have not received an update from you on your Google Chrome item, “Google search link fix,” with ID: cekfddagaicikmgoheekchngpadahmlf, item before the expiry of the warning period specified in our earlier email. Because your item continues to not comply with our policies stated in the previous email, it has now been removed from the Google Chrome Web Store.

I guess, Mountain View must be moving at extreme speeds, which is why time goes by way faster over there — relativity theory in action. Unfortunately, communication at near-light speeds is also problematic, which is likely why there is no way to ask questions about their reasoning. The only option is resubmitting, but:

Important Note: Repeated or egregious policy violations in the Chrome Web Store may result in your developer account being suspended or could lead to a ban from using the Chrome Web Store platform.

In other words: if I don’t understand what’s wrong with my extension, then I better stay away from the resubmission button. Or maybe my update with the new screenshot simply didn’t reach them yet and all I have to do is wait?

 

Anyway, dear users of my Google search link fix extension. If you happen to use Google Chrome, I sincerely recommend switching to Mozilla Firefox. No, not only because of this simple extension of course. But Addons.Mozilla.Org policies happen to be enforced in a transparent way, and appealing is always possible. Mozilla also has a good track record of keeping out malicious extensions, something that cannot be said about Chrome Web Store (a recent example).

 

Update (2018-07-04): The Hacker News thread lists a bunch of other cases where extensions were removed for unclear reasons without a possibility to appeal. It seems that having a contact within Google is the only way of resolving this.

 

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