Google has begun the mass removal of apps from a major Chinese Android developer following a BuzzFeed News investigation that revealed it was committing ad fraud and concealing app ownership details from users.
As of today, 46 apps from DO Global, Baidu, a giant of the Internet, is gone from the Play store. BuzzFeed News also found that DO global apps no longer offer ad inventory for purchase via Google's AdMob network, suggesting the web has also been extended to the internet giant's products.
Google would not comment on the removals, but a source with knowledge of the action said the company was moving to ban DO Global overall, and that more app removals would follow.
"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.
Prior to the app removals, DO Global has roughly 1
Play store with over 600 million installs. Their removal from the Play store marks one of, if not the, biggest bans Google has ever instituted against an app developer. DO Global was a subsidiary of Baidu until it was spun out last summer; Baidu retains a 34% stake
DO did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Google's action, and has not commented on the revelation that its apps were committing ad fraud. It claims to have more than 250 million monthly active users for its apps, and to reach 800 million users through its platform.
BuzzFeed News reported last week at least six apps from DO including code that made them fraudulently click on ads Even when a user was not using the app. The apps are also listed in the Play store under the generic developer names "Pic Tools Group" and "Photo Artist Studio," hosted their privacy policies on Tumblr, and did not disclose they were owned by DO. It's a violation of Play store policy to conceal ownership information, and to commit ad fraud. The ad fraud was detected by Check Point security which responded to a request from BuzzFeed News to examine applications uncovered during its investigation.
Google removed those six apps and claimed its internal systems had also flagged most of them for removal. Another 40 DO apps disappeared from the Play store this week, including 20 using the Do Global Games developer name, and 14 listed under Applecheer Studio. The apps listed different addresses and contact information in the store, making it difficult for the average user to see them all owned by the same major developer.
to ban large developers. After BuzzFeed News revealed that apps from Chinese developers Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech were committing ad fraud, Google banned those apps, but did not take action against either company. Earlier this year, Kika Tech has been allowed to resubmit it.
"If you have seen, we have successfully launched Kika 2019 in the Google Play Store," Marc Richardson, a spokesperson for Kika Tech Customs BuzzFeed News this week. "We are happy that we were able to work closely with the Google Play Team to resolve the previous issues and are excited to be able to give users a product that is fun, safe and free for everyone." DO Global, Google previously confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the offending apps violated multiple Play and ad product policies. The malicious nature of the ad code found in its apps probably played a role in Google's decision to take action against DO as a developer.