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Google puts the hammer down, bans 600 apps from Play Store for disruptive ads

In a blog post, Google describes the ad policies of the apps in question as creating a "poor user experience."

Published onFebruary 20, 2020

HUAWEI Mate 30 Pro Google Play store

Over the past few years, there have been some major issues related to apps on the Google Play Store that deliver disruptive ads. Although many of the apps serve a useful function for the user, the primary reason for these apps’ existence is to deliver as many ads as possible regardless of the user experience.

Today, in a blog post, Google announced that it is finally putting the hammer down on this practice. It announced that it removed nearly 600 apps from the Play Store for the practice of delivering “disruptive” ads. In a separate report from Buzzfeed News, we found out that Cheetah Mobile created about 45 of those banned apps.

Cheetah has been one of the biggest troublemakers when it comes to problematic apps on the Google Play Store. Google previously removed some of Cheetah’s apps from the store after Buzzfeed exposé suggested Cheetah was committing ad fraud. Now, though, there are no active Cheetah Mobile apps available on the Play Store at all.

Related: Google removes two Cheetah Mobile, Kika apps after ad fraud allegations

To be clear, Google is not concerned with apps that just have lots of ads. The real issue is apps that deliver ads in ways that make the user’s phone experience worse. For example, if you open your phone’s dialer app to make a call and a video ad pops up that you can’t click away from, that is a problem. Not only is that annoying but it could be dangerous, as that phone call may have been during an emergency situation.

Google does concede, however, that the deck is stacked against it. By the company’s own admission, “malicious developers continue to become more savvy in deploying and masking disruptive ads.” The company is trying to counter this with machine learning and other new technologies to prevent these apps from ever gaining a foothold on the Google Play Store. In fact, these systems are what helped lead the company to today’s sweeping ban.

You’ll still need to be cautious when downloading anything from the Google Play Store, but at least you can rest easy knowing that Google is getting more serious about preventing malicious apps from being there in the first place.