DO Global, which is partly owned by internet giant Baidu with a 34 percent stake, roughly has 100 apps at Play Store. Some of the apps are listed under generic developer names "Pic Tools Group" and "Photo Artist Studio," and did not disclose they were owned by DO Global. It is an infringement of the Play Store policy to disguise ownership information.
The search giant reportedly has removed 46 apps of the Chinese developer and remaining apps of the developer will disappear soon. The ad fraud was detected by Check Point Security on the request of BuzzFeed. The Check Point Security found at least six of the Do Global's apps included a code which misled the users into clicking on ads even when they were not using them and apps were secretly running in the background.
While the report said Google did not comment specifically on the removal of these apps, a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that "We actively investigate malicious behaviour, 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."
Prior to the app removals, the 100 apps of the Chinese developer had over 600 million installs with more than 250 million monthly active users and 800 million users through its ad platform. Some of the popular apps with thousands of downloads include Photo editor - Makeup Camera & Photo Effects and Crashy Cops. Users are also advised to uninstall them at the earliest.
Last year, developers like Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech were found committing ad fraud. But Google had just removed those particular apps and didn't take action against developers. Also, earlier this year, Kika Tech was allowed to resubmit its removed app.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Kika Tech said to news publisher, "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."
Protecting its user's security is high on the priority list for Google, the search giant is now taking a serious step towards a safe environment at Play Store. Google is continuously improving its 'Application Security Improvement Program' which helps developers fix problems. To provide more safety, we are expecting some strong actions from Google to such fraud apps in future.