Google purges Baidu-affiliated app developer from Play Store after ad fraud accusations

Mobile ad fraud is a growing scourge

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Google purges Baidu-affiliated app developer from Play Store after ad fraud accusations

Google is rinsing the Play Store of apps developed by Do Global, a major Android developer in which Baidu holds a 34% stake, BuzzFeed reports. At the time of publishing, 46 apps from Do Global had been removed from the Play Store. These apps were also no longer available Google’s mobile advertising network AdMob.

Previously, Do Global had about 100 apps in the Play Store with over 600 million installs. The developer claims to have over 250 million monthly active users on its apps and says it reaches 800 million people through its platform. It used to be a full subsidiary of Baidu until it was spun out as a separate company last summer. Baidu no longer has effective control over Do Global.

These app removals follow a BuzzFeed report into at least six Do Global apps, which were found to be using code that clicked on ads when users weren’t using the apps and failing to disclose that they were owned by Do Global—both behaviors violate Google Play Store policy.

The six apps investigated by Buzzfeed were Selfie Camera, Omni Cleaner, RAM Master, Smart Cooler, Total Cleaner, and AIO Flashlight, each of which had more than 40 million downloads.

In 2017, Google removed 700,000 apps from the Play Store for policy violations, a 70% increase from the year before. It counted over 2 billion monthly active Android devices at the time.

Fraudulent ad impressions, meanwhile, remains a perennial problem for the digital media industry. Back in 2015, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Ernst & Young estimated it costs the US USD 4.6 billion (RMB 31 billion) annually. This figure has likely increased given the rise of ad spend into digital channels since then.

While the true extent of damage is unknown, Juniper Research estimated ad fraud would cost an estimated USD 19 billion (RMB 128 billion) in 2018, and others claim the figure could be more than three times higher.

And mobile ad fraud is a growing scourge. Last year, mobile analytics company Apps Flyer estimated mobile ad fraud grew 30% in Q1 2018 to reach between USD 700 and 800 million (RMB 4.7-5.4 billion), while ad fraud protection firm Pixalate estimated that close to a quarter of all mobile ad impressions are fraudulent.

In China, close to one-third of digital ad traffic in 2018 was invalid, according to a study by ad measurement company Miaozhen Systems.