Google removes 600 Android apps in Play Store adware crackdown

Google removes Android apps and bans app developers who used out-of-app ads to spam users.

Google Play Store

Image: Google, ZDNet

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Google laid out today a plan to crack down on abusive Android developers who break app store rules by showing out-of-app ads.

The term of out-of-app ads refers to ads that originate from one app but appear on top of other apps, or the device's home screen, being unclear to users from where they originate.

The new ad rules enforcement push comes after the OS maker removed 600 apps from the Play Store today, and banned their respective developers.

Furthermore, besides the Play Store, Google also banned the app developers from its ad monetization platforms, Google AdMob and Google Ad Manager. This second ban would effectively prevent the app makers from monetizing their apps, even from outside the Play Store.

Per Bjorke, Google's senior product manager for ad traffic quality, said they've intervened after they've became aware of new techniques app makers were using to show out-of-app ads.

"We recently developed an innovative machine-learning based approach to detect when apps show out-of-context ads, which led to the enforcement we're announcing today," Bjorke said.

BuzzFeed reporter Craig Silverman, who has been reporting over the past years about Play Store fraud, said that one of the app developers banned today is Cheetah Mobile, one of the biggest Android app makers in the world.

In November 2018, Silverman exposed the Chinese company as engaging in some forms of ad fraud.

But besides enacting today's ban, Google said it also plans to crack down on ad rules infringers going forward. The Android OS maker also detailed a three-step plan to ensure the Play Store and Android ad ecosystem remains a healthy one.

For starters, Google said it plans to continue cracking down on out-of-app ads, which it considers some of the worst forms of user abuse, disruptive behavior, and a dangerous form of invalid advertiser spend.

Further, Google also said it plans to publish better tools for app makers in order to help them become compliant with ad industry standards. This would ensure that app makers are made aware that some limits exist in the ways they can pester Android users.

Last, but not least, Google also said it plans to change how the Android OS itself works in order to cope with this new wave of out-of-app ads. Google, however, did not elaborate on these "changes."