The more Google works towards making apps on its Play Store secure and less intrusive for users, the more skeletons seem to be tumbling out of the cupboard as it were. The latest is a revelation by a malware expert with ESET, Lucas Stefanko. He has detected that there are apps operating in the Google environment which borrow inputs from Google Maps app and then peddles them to its customers for a fee!
Google, however, quickly reacted and moved in to do damage control. Many of the apps identified by Stefanko have since been removed from the Play Store. A majority of them this time are in the GPS and navigational systems areas. And these apps have already been downloaded and are used by over 50 million users worldwide. These people would not have known that what they are using are not official Google apps but mere fake ones. Some have been seen just popping up ads on the mobile phone screens of the users. Google has a nice policy for these things in place but the app operators have been exploiting the weakness in the Google ecosystem that lets them pass through and operate with impunity.
I tested over 15 fake GPS Navigation apps with over 50,000,000 installs from #GooglePlay that violate Google rules.â€” Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) January 17, 2019
These apps just open Google Maps or use their API without any additional value for user, except for displaying ads.
Some of them don't even have proper app icon. pic.twitter.com/eeIFQS5IVU
More strikingly, Google has an additional tool Play Protect. The job of this tool is primarily to detect such phony apps and isolate them. Google has really a long way to go before it perfects these aspects. Once more, comparisons will be made with Appleâ€™s iOS which has a much safer ecosystem. It may not be long before people start feeling that the higher cost being charged by Apple for its devices and software may after all be worth every cent and think of making a shift.
With Googleâ€™s treasure of technology, particularly its pioneering work in the artificial intelligence space, it should not be difficult for Google to come up with an answer to these issues.