Android shut down 700,000 bad apps last year

Google stomped out more than 100,000 bad apples and more than 700,000 bad apps that violated the Google Play policies in 2017. That’s 70 per cent more than the apps taken down in 2016, according to Google Play’s product manager.

Advancements in machine learning helped detect abuse on the app store, wrote Andrew Ahn in a recent blog post, and 99 per cent of apps with abusive contents were flagged and rejected before anyone could install them. Google’s new detection models, which spot repeat offenders and abusive developer networks at scale, played a big role in removing the 100,000 bad developers in 2017.

Bad apps fall into three categories: copycats, inappropriate content and potentially harmful applications (PHAs). Impersonating famous apps is the most common violation, Google says. Apps in this category ride the high search traffic numbers from famous titles. Google took down more than 250,000 copycat apps. The aforementioned machine learning models sift through incoming app submissions and flag the ones with potential violations, saving the human reviewer some time. Tens of thousands of apps with inappropriate content were taken down last year, Google says.

PHAs are known to act as trojans, conduct fraud or phish users’ information. In 2017, the average annual PHA install rates on Google Play was reduced by 50 per cent year-over-year. But there’s still room for improvement, Google says.

“Despite the new and enhanced detection capabilities that led to a record-high takedowns of bad apps and malicious developers, we know a few still manage to evade and trick our layers of defense,” wrote Ahn. “We take these extremely seriously, and will continue to innovate our capabilities to better detect and protect against abusive apps and the malicious actors behind them.”

Apple walked back on its App Store guidelines late December, which banned apps built with templates and other app generation services. The move was supposed to reduce the number of low-quality apps and spam, the company said. Organizations that didn’t have the in-house expertise to build custom apps from scratch, however, lashed back, demanding amendments be made to the guidelines. Apple still asks developers to put their app through an approval process before it’s even seen by the company, but now says small businesses and organizations can use app templating services. Those services shouldn’t be the ones publishing the apps on their clients’ behalf, Apple says.

While Apple hasn’t released the exact number of apps its rejected or removed from the app store, the number one cause for rejection is an app’s lack of completion.

“Submissions to App Review, including apps you make available for pre-order, should be final versions with all necessary metadata and fully functional URLs included; placeholder text, empty websites, and other temporary content should be scrubbed before submission,” according to Apple’s developer guidelines.

Only two per cent of rejections were because of copycat submissions.

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Alex Coop
Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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