Google removed nearly 600 apps from the Play Store for ad policy violation

Google announced to have removed nearly 600 Android apps in the official Play Store that were violating two ad-related policies.

Google removed from the official Play Store nearly 600 Android apps that were violating two ad-related policies, it also banned the same apps from Google AdMob and Google Ad Manager.

“As part of our ongoing efforts — along with help from newly developed technologies — today we’re announcing nearly 600 apps have been removed from the Google Play Store and banned from our ad monetization platforms, Google AdMob and Google Ad Manager, for violating our disruptive ads policy and disallowed interstitial policy.” reads the Google announcement.

The apps violated disruptive ads policy and disallowed interstitial policy that were established to prevent mobile ad frauds.

Google remarks that its policies don’t allow apps containing deceptive or disruptive ads. Ads must only be displayed within the app serving them and the tech giant considers ads served in any app as part of the app. This means that the ads shown in the developers’ apps must be compliant with all Google policies.

Below the concept of disruptive ads described by Google in its policy: 

“Ads should not be shown in a way that results in inadvertent clicks. Forcing a user to click an ad or submit personal information for advertising purposes before they can fully use an app is prohibited.” reads the policy.

“Interstitial ads may only be displayed inside of the app serving them. If your app displays interstitial ads or other ads that interfere with normal use, they must be easily dismissable without penalty.”

Many users have noticed that some apps serve ads on a mobile device when the user is not active in their app, and clearly this behavior is not allowed by Google policies.

We describe these ads as “out-of-context” because they can be displayed in full screen at an inconvenient time, for example, while the users are accessing its mobile browser of is doing a different task.

“This is an invasive maneuver that results in poor user experiences that often disrupt key device functions and this approach can lead to unintentional ad clicks that waste advertiser spend. For example, imagine being unexpectedly served a full-screen ad when you attempt to make a phone call, unlock your phone, or while using your favorite map app’s turn-by-turn navigation.” continues the announcement.

“Malicious developers continue to become more savvy in deploying and masking disruptive ads, but we’ve developed new technologies of our own to protect against this behavior”

Google revealed that it has recently developed an efficient machine-learning based approach to detect when apps show out-of-context ads, the company used this innovative technique to identify and remove the malicious apps from its Play Store.

Using machine learning, Google is now able to detect when apps display out-out-of-context ads. This method helped find the apps that have been removed from the Play Store.

“As we move forward, we will continue to invest in new technologies to detect and prevent emerging threats that can generate invalid traffic, including disruptive ads, and to find more ways to adapt and evolve our platform and ecosystem policies to ensure that users and advertisers are protected from bad behavior.” concludes the post.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Android, Play Store)

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