Google removes nearly 600 apps for spam-like ads after they were downloaded 4.5 BILLION times

Google removes nearly 600 apps from its store for pushing spam-like ads but only after they were downloaded 4.5 BILLION times

  • Nearly 600 apps were removed from the Google Play store
  • The tech giant says they were pushing disruptive advertisements
  • Altogether the apps racked up 4.5 billion downloads before being removed
  • Some apps display full-screen ads even when it wasn’t being used 

In a large scale effort to insulate users from disruptive spam and ads Google removed nearly 600 apps from its Play store that had been downloaded an astonishing 4.5 billion times.

According to Google, the apps violated its rules on disruptive ad policies, meaning they show advertisements that were ‘displayed to users in unexpected ways, including impairing or interfering with the usability of device functions.’

This can include plastering a device’s screen with full-screen ads even when the application isn’t being used or even when a user is trying to make a phone call.

Apps in the Google Play store (pictured) were spamming users with disruptive ads that would sometimes interfere with phone calls or other functions

‘This is an invasive maneuver that results in poor user experiences that often disrupt key device functions and this approach can lead to unintentional ad clicks that waste advertiser spend,’ wrote Google in a blog post.

Advertisers scammed by those apps will be refunded according to Google. 

‘For example, imagine being unexpectedly served a full-screen ad when you attempt to make a phone call, unlock your phone, or while using your favorite map app’s turn-by-turn navigation.’

The goal of the ads is to collect money from advertisers for clicks even though the engagement is ostensibly phony.

According to Buzzfeed News many of the developers behind the fraudulent apps, most of which were games or utility apps, were based in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India and targeted mostly English-speaking users.

Part of the reason apps were able to accumulate such a high total of downloads is the fact that Google doesn’t automatically halt a developer’s access to the app store when disruptive ad practices are detected.

Google said it uses a machine-learning algorithm to track disruptive ad behavior on its platforms (stock)

Google said it uses a machine-learning algorithm to track disruptive ad behavior on its platforms (stock)

Instead, Google gives the developer a notice and a chance to rectify its behavior before removing them from the Play store.

One of the apps removed from its store, run by Cheetah Mobile, a Chinese company, had previously been discovered engaging in ad fraud.

Buzzfeed reports that the company had previous apps removed from the store in December but was allowed to retain its privilege to offer new ones. 

To help the tech giant in its quest to crack down on disruptive ads, it has been employing machine-leaning software designed to scan its store and discern when if its displaying ‘out-of-context ads.’