Google has removed almost 600 “disruptive” Android apps from the Play Store and banned their developers in its latest effort to counter in mobile ad fraud, the company announced on Thursday. According to Google’s policy, no Android app or game is allowed to display ads when not in use.
The company says it defines disruptive ads as “ads that are displayed to users in unexpected ways, including impairing or interfering with the usability of device functions,” like a full-screen ad that pops up during a phone call or when using navigation apps, according to Per Bjorke, Google’s senior product manager for ad traffic quality who wrote the company blog post.
Bjorke also notes that the company had developed a “machine-learning based approach” to counter this problem. This approach was usable in this action of removing over 600 apps from Play Store. “Malicious developers continue to become savvier in deploying and masking disruptive ads, but we’ve developed new technologies of our own to protect against this behaviour,” Bjorke writes.
According to BuzzFeed News report, most of the apps found in violation were made by developers based in China, India, and Singapore, and a majority were targetting at English-speaking users. One of the top offender publisher, Cheetah Mobile which is a publicly-traded company based in China, had more than 40 of its apps yanked from the Play Store in this latest wave of bans.
Bjorke told BuzzFeed News that it appeared the offending developers had used similar techniques to evade detection, but he did not know if it was a coordinated effort. Google will offer refunds to brands whose ads may have been affected by the disruptive pop-ups, he added.
This is not the first time Google has taken such steps to sweep down malicious and ad crackling apps from Play Store. However, this is considered as the biggest step taken from Google.
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