On the heels of the revelation last week, via a BuzzFeed analysis, that several of the most-downloaded apps from the Google Play Store may have been caught sharing data they collect with the Chinese government, we’ve just learned that Google is banning the app developer in question. In addition, Google is removing all apps from the developer, DO Global, that have collectively garnered more than half a billion downloads.
Google had already discovered the developer was engaged in ad fraud and had begun pulling its apps from the store. BuzzFeed reports today that almost 50 apps from the developer have already been removed, and the other 50 will disappear in the coming days. And while this certainly is not the first app developer to get smacked with a Play Store ban, not only is DO Global among the biggest, but it’s also owned in party by Baidu, which is sometimes described as the Google of China.
BuzzFeed’s earlier analysis found that the developers were exploiting the Play Store’s rules and procedures to hide who they are and to offer up apps that aggressively abuse user permissions and commit ad fraud. One of them was a TV remote app that said it “might” use the microphone in your phone to record sounds while you watch TV, plus a flashlight app that you’d think would offer a pretty cut-and-dried functionality and yet still asked for lots of dubious permissions.
“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 told BuzzFeed.
To get a sense of just how much of a presence DO Global has enjoyed via the Play Store, the company boasts more than a quarter of a billion monthly active app users. But the company has apparently taken pains to mask its identify from many of the apps it’s had in Google’s online marketplace. Many of them, according to reports, list myriad addresses and developer contact details, obscuring their common ownership.