A successful Android app developer with over half a billion installs to its credit is having its apps removed by Google from the Play Store. DO Global, based in China, has had 46 apps erased from Google's Android app storefront after an investigation conducted by BuzzFeed
found serious issues with the apps. Before Google started taking action against the developer, DO Global had approximately 100 apps in the Google Play Store making this one of the biggest actions ever taken against an app developer by Google. The remaining apps will be removed shortly. DO Global had been a wholly owned subsidiary of well know Chinese internet firm Baidu. But last year, the unit was spun off and Baidu kept a 34% stake.
The initial report from BuzzFeed said that at least six of the apps from DO Global would click on ads even if the app was not being used. Online security firm Checkpoint, in partnership with BuzzFeed, found the apps loaded with malware that it dubbed PreAMo
.That's because the apps fraudulently clicked on banner ads served up by mobile ad networks Presage, Admob, and Mopub. Checkpoint states that the malware was installed from these six apps a total of 90 million times.
Some of the apps involved were credited to developers like "Pic Tools Group" and "Photo Artist Studio," and their true ownership was hidden by DO Global. That's another violation of Play Store rules. The developer contact information was also different on several of the apps, obfuscating their true owners. The actual titles include apps like RAM Master-Memory Optimizer; Photo Editor-Makeup Camera & Photo Effects and Crashy Cops. DO Global claims that its apps have 250 million monthly active users, and said that its mobile ad platform reaches 800 million people.
"We fully understand the seriousness of the allegations. Therefore, after reading the reports about our apps, we immediately conducted an internal investigation on this matter. We regret to find irregularities in some of our products’ use of AdMob advertisements. Given this, we fully understand and accept Google's decision. Moreover, we have actively cooperated with them by doing a thorough examination of every app involved...moving forward, we will strictly follow relevant regulations and continue conducting a comprehensive review of our products. Lastly, during this process, we have caused misunderstandings and great concern due to our being unable to communicate in a timely manner and provide complete information. We offer our sincere apologies."-DO Global
In a statement, Google said that it will always investigate malicious behavior by apps. When it finds violations, it will prevent a developer from monetizing an app through AdMob and/or remove an app from the Play Store.
Two of the apps removed from the Google Play Store