Google deletes hundreds of apps from the Play Store: what are they

46 apps developed by a Chinese company have been deleted from the Google Play Store and 60 more may be deleted soon. Here's why

Big spring cleaning in the Play Store: Google has already removed 46 apps from its app store and many more would be about to be deleted. This is all part of a huge ban against Chinese developer DO Global, which has more than a hundred apps on the Play Store, which have been downloaded more than 600 million times by about 250 million users.

The news is reported by BuzzFeed News, which a couple of weeks ago published an investigation in which it emerged behaviors completely outside the terms of use of the Play Store, implemented by DO Global apps. According to BuzzFedd News, the apps of the Chinese developer, whose investors include even the giant Baidu with 34% of the shares, abuse the permissions granted by the user and put in place real advertising fraud generating fake clicks on banner ads. BuzzFeed News' investigation, which in turn stems from a disclosure by Check Point Security that uncovered the ad fraud, must have been considered more than accurate by Google since the first 46 DO Global apps have already been removed.

DO Global itself, moreover, has partially admitted its faults. Responding to BuzzFeed News, Google announced that it could go as far as banning DO Global completely from the store: "If an app violates our policy, we implement a series of actions that may include banning the developer to prevent him from publishing apps on the Play Store."

Which apps have been removed by Google

The list of DO Global's 46 apps already removed from the Play Store is not yet known, but we do know which are the first six removed days ago in an initial reaction by Google. One of them, called Selfie Camera, was installed by over 50 million users. The other five apps are Omni Cleaner, RAM Master, Smart Cooler, Total Cleaner and AIO Flashlight. Under the hood, all of these apps share two common technical features: they integrate code that generates fake clicks on ads delivered by AdMob and MoPub, two platforms run by Google and Twitter respectively, and they collect far more data than they should about user behavior.

Are Chinese apps dangerous?

There's also a political angle to this story: if apps collect data about user behavior by abusing their permissions, where does that data go? In China, if the app is Chinese. Already in December 2018, on the occasion of a similar scandal but related to other Chinese app developers, the controversy grew in the United States, also fueled by the statements of the Democratic Senator from Virginia Mark Warner: "All this information is sent to databases in China. Beyond the advertising scam, all the private information being collected on Americans is a problem."