Google Bans Chinese App Developer CooTek For Invasive Ads

CooTek, a fast-growing Chinese app developer listed on the NYSE under the ticker “CTK”, is having dozens of its products pulled from Google’s Play Store and ad platforms. The news comes shorty after an investigation from Lookout revealed that 238 of company’s apps were using a malicious adware plugin BeiTaAd that reportedly sent pesky ads to users even when they were not using the apps or even their phones.

According to Lookout researcher Kristina Balaam, who is responsible for the investigation, the massive influx of ads could “render the phones nearly unusable.” After the research surfaced, CooTek promised it would abandon BeiTaAd, but the updated apps accepted into the Google Play Store still appeared to contain a code that enabled similar ads, as was discovered by BuzzFeed and Lookout.

TouchPal Keyboard
TouchPal Keyboard

Google has commented, saying, “our Google Play developer policies strictly prohibit malicious and deceptive behavior, as well as disruptive ads. When violations are found, we take action.” A Google spokesperson noted that more removals will follow in the Play Store as it continues enforcing stricter quality control regulations.

CooTek took a defensive approach, claiming that “The findings claimed by Lookout this time lack evidence and the logic is not convincing.” Spokesperson for CooTek Mila Lou also said, “we confirm that there was NOT any re-engagement on the ad activity pointed out by Lookout on any of the versions which we updated.”

CooTek’s apps remain on Apple’s App Store, but their removal from Google Play is likely to have a negative impact on the company’s business. The Chinese developer is heavily dependent on app monetization and will have to find new ways to revitalize revenue in the markets outside China or risk a precipitous stock price plunge.