In a shocking development, popular mobile wallet app MobiKwik was briefly taken down from Google Play Store on Thursday. The reason: the app showed an ad for the Aarogya Setu app along with a link to it.
Showing the ad was not the move that landed MobiKwik in the crosshairs, but the fact that the ad carried a link to the government's contact-tracing app resulted in Google delisting MobiKwik from Play Store. According to Google, MobiKwik, by adding an external link to the app, violated the ad policy.
MobiKwik failed to comply with developer program policies that disallow apps with deceptive and disruptive ads, Google said in an email to the developers of MobiKwik.
MobiKwik CEO's reaction
In a tweet addressed to Google, Bipin Preet Singh, MobiKwik, CEO, said the ad was related to Aarogya Setu and the decision to carrying the link was as per RBI's directive. Moreover, Singh said it was in public health interest.
"Hey @GoogleIndia @GooglePlay you removed @MobiKwik app from play store because we had a link to Aarogya Setu app. We were asked to do this by regulators (@RBI ) and understand it's in public health interest. You have too much power!," Singh tweeted.
The RBI had reportedly reached out to MobiKwik on April 15, asking them to include the URL to promote downloads for the Aarogya Setu app. "The URL link mentioned in the banner may kindly be made as hyperlink and clickable for download," the email read.
Upon receiving Google's notice about the ad policy violation, MobiKwik decided to remove the link to Aarogya Setu from its app, which granted its entry back into the Play Store.
What is Google's ad policy?
In 2016, Google updated its ad policy to include clear instructions to developers to add the "Ads" label on apps that contain advertising. Developers must declare if their apps contain ads, be it display ads, native ads or banner ads. But it doesn't answer how linking Aarogya Setu app's banner is considered an advertisement and how other platforms with similar change will be affected by this.