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Google Bans Developer With More Than Half A Billion Downloads For Committing Ad Fraud

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Google promptly banished a developer that had racked up over half a billion app installs after it found that it committed ad fraud.

DO Global, a popular Chinese developer, is now largely off the Play Store after Google discovered that its apps were abusing user permissions. The Baidu-owned developer was found to be generating fake ad clicks to gain revenue, among other illegal practices.

"We take our responsibility to protect users and advertisers seriously, and invest in tools and resources to fight fraud and abuse globally," Google said in a statement to The Verge. "We actively investigate malicious behavior, 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."

DO Global Banned From Google Play Store

Google didn't confirm that it's banning DO Global outright, but according to a report from BuzzFeed, that's exactly what the company is doing.

Research firm Check Point found at least six apps that contain code for fake ad-clicking that ran in the background even when a user closed the app. DO Global had 100 apps in the Play Store, many of them listed under various developer handles including "Pic Tools Group" and "Photo Artist Studio."

These apps did not disclose that they were owned by DO Global, which is a violation of Play Store's policies on app ownership and transparency. Since most of these DO Global-owned apps are listed under different developer names, it's difficult for users to immediately ascertain their original author.

As of this writing, 46 of the apps in violation are now unavailable to download. In addition, DO Global apps no longer offer ad inventory for purchase via Google's AdMob network, suggesting they're also banned from Google's other ad-centric products.

Ad Revenue

Free-to-download apps earn revenue primarily through ads. Check Point notes in its research that it's not surprising malicious actors are committing fraudulent activities against ad agencies, especially in a landscape where ad revenue can generate high income.

DO Global's ban marks one of the biggest banishments Google has ever executed against an app developer. DO Global has yet to comment on Google's action, and more importantly, on the discovery that its apps were part of a larger effort to commit ad fraud. More than 250 million people use DO Global apps each month, and DO Global claims it reaches 800 million users through ads.

Aside from apps committing ad fraud, Google has also previously banished apps that spread malware or collect data without consent.

Have you been using an app you suspect was owned by DO Global? As always, feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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