Exactly, the reason they gave was pure BS. The funny thing is that aosp is perfectly free to use and available to install whatever store, browser or whatever you want. Infact, I'm pretty sure aosp already comes with its own browser, and even if the phone manufacture signs up to Google Play services, the user can just uninstall/install whatever they want.but don't have the balls to just pass a tax so they make up some imaginary violation.
On the whole "internal Google drama" thing, bloomberg reported the other day on that Fuchsia project (android/chrome os replacement) . Apparently the internal drama machine has been spinning, with the ad team winning out against the security team on a few things. Who knows what that really means (its not at all unusual in software engineering for marketing/sales/advertising to win out against the engineering teams), Fuchsia could easily be more privacy focused than Android. However, with all of these power struggles, who knows whats going on over there? Can they pull together enough to make things work? And with a company that politicized, are we going to see software that does sneaky things to police wrong thought?