Google Play Store removes Kika Tech, Cheetah Mobiles apps over alleged ad fraudhttps://indianexpress.com/article/technology/social/google-play-store-kika-keyboard-cheetah-mobiles-cm-file-manager-ad-fraud-5479338/

Google Play Store removes Kika Tech, Cheetah Mobiles apps over alleged ad fraud

Cheetah Mobiles' CM Launcher and Kika Keyboard have been pulled down from Google Play Store, as it rigged the payment process that ensures installation of third-party apps.

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As many as seven Cheetah Mobiles apps, including Clean Master and Battery Doctor, were spotted performing the ‘app injection’ fraud.

Google has removed two apps, Kika Keyboard and CM File Manager from China’s Cheetah Mobile, from Play Store over malicious and deceptive behaviour, reports BuzzFeed.  Google issued a statement saying, that it takes “deceptive and malicious behaviour” on the platform seriously, and if an app violates it, then they take action.

This follows a original report from BuzzFeed News that spotted an ad fraud scheme that included apps developed by Cheetah Mobiles and Kika Tech.

The phenomenon, loosely termed as ‘click fraud’, originates from the fee app developers pay to their partners. These ‘bounties’, said to be in the range of 50 cents (Rs 35 approx.) to $3 (Rs 215 approx.), in order to promote app installations.

This comes up in the form of ad videos that show up on apps, that end with an ‘Install Now’ screen, that redirects one to the Play Store page.

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The report said that during this process, the partners for a developer would include the network that created the app, and the platform through which the app was distributed. For the payment to be successfully transferred, the newly installed app will generate a ‘flashback’, so that developers and partner agencies can be notified of the ad source, as well as the device that installed the app.

This process, known as app install attribution, was targeted by both Chinese firms.

According to Buzzfeed News, both Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech rigged the attribution system, so that app bounties would be transferred to them, even if they did not run the ad, or have another contribution with the installation process.  The findings were published by app analytics and attribution firm Kochava.

Cheetah Mobile had responded saying that it planned to take legal action against mobile app attribution and analytics company Kochava, which had done the study on which BuzzFeed report was based.

The Chinese company claimed that “Kochava has provided false information and opinions about Cheetah Mobile’s advertising system to the media, leading to a sharp decline in the company’s stock price.” It also said the report of Kochava was based on flawed testing.

Kika Tech said it had no involvement with ‘app injection’ on third-party platforms.

Kochava report alleged that seven Cheetah Mobiles apps, including Clean Master, Battery Doctor, and CM Doctor, were found committing this fraud. The Kika Keyboard, that offers themed-based and emoji-specific keyboards.

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Both developers can consider appealing to Google to restore their app services. Cheetah Mobile has indicated that it is already doing so with Google.