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Google brings down the banhammer on app developer for producing fake clicks (Updated)

DO Global says it found "irregularities in some of [its] products' use of AdMob advertisements."

Published onApril 29, 2019

This is a photo of the Google Play Store in 2019

Update: Monday, April 29, 2019 at 10:33 a.m. ET: DO Global has issued an official statement on last week’s incident. The company says it found “irregularities in some of [its] products’ use of AdMob advertisements,” and that it “fully understand[s] and accept[s] Google’s decision.”

The full statement can be found below:

In the past week, we have noticed a series of reports about our apps by the media. We fully understand the seriousness of the allegations. As such, we immediately conducted an internal investigation on this matter. We regret to find irregularities in some of our products’ use of AdMob advertisements. Given this, we fully understand and accept Google’s decision. Moreover, we have actively cooperated with them by doing a thorough examination of every app involved.
We would like to thank the media, our partners, and the public for their support. Moving forward, we will strictly follow relevant regulations and continue conducting a comprehensive review of our products. Lastly, during this process, we have caused misunderstandings and great concern due to our being unable to communicate in a timely manner and provide complete information. We offer our sincere apologies.

Original article: Friday, April 26, 2019 at 5:29 p.m. ET: Popular Chinese developer DO Global is in hot water today after Google banned many of its apps from the Google Play Store over ad fraud and user permission abuses, reported BuzzFeed News.

According to the report, 46 apps out of DO Global’s roughly 100 apps have been taken down. An unnamed source told BuzzFeed News that more app removals will follow, with Google moving to ban DO Global from the Play Store altogether.

It also appears that DO Global’s apps no longer include purchasable advertisement inventory through Google’s AdMob network. That suggests that Google even banned DO Global’s ad products.

Android Authority reached out to Google for comment, with a spokesperson issuing the following statement:

We take our responsibility to protect users and advertisers seriously, and invest in tools and resources to fight fraud and abuse globally. 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.

The ban follows an investigation conducted by BuzzFeed News and security researchers at Check Point Research. According to the investigation’s findings, at least six of DO Global’s apps included code for fraudulent ad-clicking. The fake clicks then produced ad revenue for DO Global and even worked if you kept the app closed.

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Compounding matters, DO Global supposedly published apps under generic developer names “Pic Tools Group” and “Photo Artist Studio,” hosted the apps’ privacy policies on Tumblr, and didn’t disclose to users that the apps under the aforementioned developer names were from DO Global.

Prior to today’s ban, DO Global’s apps garnered over 600 million installs. DO Global told BuzzFeed News that the company has over 250 million monthly active app users and reaches 800 million users through its ad platform.

NEXT: 15 best Android apps of 2019!

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