If you were, for some reason, hoping to download CM File Manager or Kika Keyboard, I have some bad news. A report last week claimed that Cheetah Mobile and an associated company called Kika Tech were engaged in some shady advertising practices, and now Google has responded. These two apps have been suspended from the Play Store, and Google may still take further action.
App analytics firm Kochava claimed last week that Cheetah Mobile and Kika both engaged in so-called "click fraud" by claiming credit for app installs even when they didn't show an ad. Cheetah Mobile blamed a third-party SDK for the issue, but Kochava says Cheetah develops the offending SDK. Google initiated an investigation following the report and has removed CM File Manager (cache) and Kika Keyboard (cache). Cheetah Mobile's file manager had more than 50 million downloads, and the keyboard was north of 100 million. Cheetah Mobile also voluntarily removed its Battery Doctor and CM Locker apps from the Play Store following the initial report.
The companies can appeal the ban if they make changes to the apps that bring them in-line with developer policies, but this could be just the start. Google noted in a statement to Buzzfeed News that it expects to take further actions against the developers. Cheetah issued a press release after the removal to explain that losing CM File manager was no big deal. However, Kochava also pointed the finger at big money-makers like Clean Master. That's one of the most downloaded apps in the Play Store—removing it for fraud could force Cheetah Mobile to get its house in order.
Google has posted an update on its investigation into the abuse. Here's the current state of things.
- On Monday, we removed two apps from the Play Store because our investigation discovered evidence of app install attribution abuse.
- We also discovered evidence of app install attribution abuse in 3 ad network SDKs. We have asked the impacted developers to remove those SDKs from their apps. Because we believe most of these developers were not aware of the behavior from these third-party SDKs, we have given them a short grace period to take action.
- Google Ads SDKs were not utilized for any of the abusive behaviors mentioned above.
- Our investigation is ongoing and additional reviews of other apps and third party SDKs are still underway. If we find evidence of additional policy violations, we will take action.
- Buzzfeed News