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Google Bans Developer With Half a Billion App Downloads From Play Store

Google is banning app developer DO Global and removing their apps from the Google Play Store after it discovered the company was committing ad fraud. “As of today, 46 apps from DO Global, which is partly owned by internet giant Baidu, are gone from the Play store,” reports BuzzFeed. “BuzzFeed News also found that DO Global apps no longer offer ad inventory for purchase via Google’s AdMob network, suggesting the ban has also been extended to the internet giant’s ad products.” From the report: Prior to the app removals, DO Global had roughly 100 apps in the Play store with over 600 million installs. Their removal from the Play store marks one of the biggest bans, if not the biggest, Google has ever instituted against an app developer. DO Global was a subsidiary of Baidu until it was spun out last summer; Baidu retains a 34% stake. BuzzFeed News reported last week that at least six apps from DO included code that made them fraudulently click on ads even when a user was not using the app. The apps were also listed in the Play store under the generic developer names “Pic Tools Group” and “Photo Artist Studio,” hosted their privacy policies on Tumblr, and did not disclose they were owned by DO. It’s a violation of Play store policy to conceal ownership information, and to commit ad fraud. The ad fraud was detected by Check Point security, which responded to a request from BuzzFeed News to examine apps uncovered during its investigation.

Google removed those six apps, and claimed its internal systems had also flagged most of them for removal. Another 40 DO apps disappeared from the Play store this week, including 20 using the Do Global Games developer name, and 14 listed under Applecheer Studio. The apps listed different addresses and contact information in the store, making it difficult for the average user to see they were all owned by the same major developer.

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