Google has banned another major Chinese app developer from the Play Store following security company Lookout’s report detailing the use of malicious adware across 238 of the company’s apps.
First reported by BuzzFeed News, the Lookout report exposed CooTek, which included an adware plug-in called ‘BeiTaAd’ in its apps, such as popular keyboard app TouchPal. CooTek is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange
The BeiTaAd plug-in pushed disruptive advertisements to users’ phones when sleeping, locked or when CooTek apps weren’t in use, according to Lookout. While out-of-app ads aren’t unusual, the problem here is that advertisements could render a device unusable. Users reported that ads prevented them from answering calls and interacting with other apps.
When the report came out, Google removed the apps in question. CooTek issued an apology and said it had updated its apps to remove the plug-in and uploaded clean versions of its apps to the Play Store. Google accepted these ‘clean’ apps back into the Play Store.
However, evidence obtained by BuzzFeed News and Lookout revealed 58 of the updated apps contained old and/or new code that allowed them to continue pushing malicious ads. Additionally, CooTek had removed BeiTaAd from the apps, but the ads remained.
In June, CooTek updated its apps again, removing the offending code.
However, Google has removed all of CooTek’s apps from the Play Store and banned the Chinese developer from its ad platform.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Google has banned a sizeable Chinese app developer from the Play Store this year. In April, Google banned Do Global for running an ad fraud scheme.