Google Removes 600 Apps from Play Store for Serving Disruptive Ads

Google has removed more than 600 apps from the Play Store
and banned them from the Google AdMob and Google Ad Manager advertising
platforms for violating policies on disruptive ads.

The massive Google Play Store marketplace holds lots of
interesting apps, but it’s also home to less-than-honest apps and developers out
just to make a quick buck. One way to make money is through ads, but apps that only
show ads when they are running may not make so much money.

So, developers find ways to show ads even when the apps
are not in use, which is a clear violation of existing policies. Of course,
some mechanisms are in place to counter harmful and dishonest apps, but it’s
not a perfect system. And malevolent developers always seek new ways to
circumvent protections.

“We define disruptive ads as ads that are displayed to users in unexpected ways, including impairing or interfering with the usability of device functions,’ says Per Bjorke, Senior Product Manager, Ad Traffic Quality. “While they can occur in-app, one form of disruptive ads we’ve seen on the rise is something we call out-of-context ads, which is when malicious developers serve ads on a mobile device when the user is not actually active in their app.”

It might not seem like a big problem, but it’s a sure way
to disrupt phone usage. Imagine trying to shut down a full-screen app that has
no exit button right when you’re attempting to answer a call. And this is just
one of many situations in which ads can be intrusive, especially since they’re
not running inside the apps that serve them.

Fighting this problem is an ongoing process, and Google
says it’s now enrolling the help of a machine-learning tool that should be able
to spot these apps before they cause any damage. The only issue is that such
tools sometimes cause collateral damages as well, at least before it has a
chance to learn what they need to do.

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