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Google’s Play app store has always had a reputation of being something of a “Wild West” when it comes to fake and fraudulent applications; but when Google is the one being defrauded the company was been very willing to take decisive action.
Apps, especially free ones, rely on ads as a source of revenue. Chinese developer DO Global was found to use fraudulent advertisement tactics, including triggering fake ad clicks, on 6 of their apps. After being detected by Check Point security, and discovering the malicious nature of the ad fraud code found in its apps, Google removed 46 of their apps from the Google Play Store.
Further to this, DO Global apps no longer offer ad inventory for purchase via Google’s AdMob network.
The company also listed their apps in the Play store under fraudulent, generic developer names, including: “Pic Tools Group” and “Photo Artist Studio.” They also hosted their privacy policies on Tumblr and did not disclose they were owned by DO.
Of the 46 apps removed, 14 were listed under “Applecheer Studio”, and included different addresses and contact information in the store, making it difficult to ascertain whether they are all owned by the same major developer.
It’s a violation of the Play store policy to conceal ownership information and to commit ad fraud. “We actively investigate malicious behavior, and when we find violations, we take action, including the removal of a developer’s ability to monetize their app with AdMob or publish on Play,” a Google spokesperson said.
DO Global, party owned by Baidu, previously had over 100 apps, totalling over 600 million installs. It has more than 250 million monthly active users, and reaches more than 800 million users through its ad platform. This makes it one of the biggest bans Google has ever instituted against an app developer.
Whilst Google does take action against specific apps that have been found to violate the Play Store policies, they are less likely to ban large developers. Like Kika Tech earlier this year, there may be a possibility that they’ll eventually be allowed to re-submit their removed apps.