For a long time, the Play Store could consider the wild west of app distribution, especially compared to Apple's inherently more restrictive App Store. Google is working on improvements though and is becoming more stringent on app permissions, among other things. Still, we're back with another ad fraud scheme right inside the Store, following in the footsteps of last year's Cheetah Mobile investigation. Another Chinese app developer, DO Global, is an add-on code in its apps that automatically clicks on users' knowledge.

BuzzFeed News first brought these findings to light in collaboration with security researchers Check Point and Method Media Intelligence. They found out that the app developer is questioning a Baidu Chinese giant who only became independent last year. Its apps have more than 90 million downloads before Google removed the listings.

DO Global's products are sketchy to look at in the first place. They're all either replicating systems, like camera and flashlight, and make up your phone to make it faster, which will often end up slowing down phones. But look for yourself, these are the six removed apps: Selfie Camera, Total Cleaner, Smart Cooler, RAM Master, AIO Flashlight, and Omni Cleaner.

There are two parts of this fraud. First, DO Global was listed as the developer for most of these apps, but used in the US parent company for publishing on the Play Store, making users believe they were installing an American product. Of course, this is against Google's policy. Second, the apps were programmed to automatically click on ads, stealing money from advertisers who don't get any real user interaction with their offerings. Since this happened in the background while the screen was turned off, users might have also experienced worse battery life and unexpected data bills.

BuzzFeed News also mentions that many apps on the Play Store abuse permissions and non-transparent privacy policies to suck personal data from users, but it doesn't point towards specific apps or developers.

We can only hope that Google continues to control the Play Store and manages to actually force its customer protection policies on app developers. which the company already started to do at higher targeting APIs and monitoring phone and SMS permissions more closely