Google bans major Chinese app developer over malicious ad fraud

Its the second time this year that a Chinese app developer faces the consequences of deceitful practices.

16 April 2019, Great Britain, London: A production model of the Samsung Galaxy Fold Tablet smartphone, recorded during a presentation. The Android device for around 2000 euros is to be launched on the European market on 3 May 2019. (to dpa "Samsung shows serial version of his fold-out smartphone Fold") Photo: Simon Nagel/dpa

A Chinese app developer had dozens of its apps banned from Google Play Store and related advertising platforms after it continued fraudulent ad activities following a prior investigation in May, as reported by BuzzFeed.

Last month, security company Lookout reported it found that 238 popular CooTek apps, with more than 440 million downloads, were using an advertising plugin called BeiTaAd. The plugin sends disruptive out-of-app ads to the user’s screen even while the phone is asleep or the apps are not in use,

On the Android store forum, users have reported intrusive apps constantly popping up and interrupting many core phone functions – from phone calls, listening to music to sending emails.

After the news was reported in June, CooTek claimed it removed affected applications and updated Google Store with new, clean versions of its apps.

However, following a second investigative report, which Buzzfeed News conducted together with Lookout, it emerged that although the malicious plugin was removed, at least 58 apps still contained a code that triggered the same ads.

CooTek denied the accusations. In the conversation with BuzzFeed, the company’s spokesperson Mina Luc said that “the findings lack evidence and the logic is not convincing”.

Google, however, is now treating this as a case of repeated violations and is taking serious action.

More than 60 CooTek apps were removed from the Play Store and the Shanghai-based developer is now prohibited from using Google’s ad platforms altogether.

CooTek’s US subsidiary recently opened a new office in California as a part of its “global growth strategy”, said Susan Li, President of CooTek, as reported by PR Newswire. Losing its position on one of the major app stores will undoubtedly interfere with its global outreach.

This is the second time this year that a major Chinese app developer faces the consequences of deceitful practices. In April, Do Global was banned on Google’s platforms for producing fake ad-clicks to increase revenue.