Staff Reporters
Jul 19, 2019

App developer CooTek denies malicious ad activities after Google ban

Hidden advertising plugin BeiTaAd is said to have been embedded in 238 applications that amounted to over 440 million installations.

App developer CooTek denies malicious ad activities after Google ban

Chinese app developer CooTek has denied malicious ad activities after Buzzfeed reported that more than 60 of its apps were removed from the Google Play store and ad platforms because they bombarded users with disruptive ads.

While acknowledged that some of its apps have been disabled in the Google Play Store and Google Admob, CooTek said there were “potential misunderstandings” with Google.

"CooTek investigated internally, reexamined its apps and found no evidence to support the [Buzzfeed] allegations," the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Company confirms that the updated apps it submitted to Google Play in June did not engage in any malicious ad activity,” continued the statement.

In a separate Chinese announcement on Thursday, CooTek said that several months ago the company found there were some user-experience defects caused by one of its ad SDKs (software development kits), and had removed it on May 23 while updating the applications.

However, in order to realize some new functions irrelevant to ads, the company reused some code that was used in the removed SDK before, said the statement. “This move may lead to misunderstandings, making Google and security company Lookout assume that we adopted the former defects again,” it added.

According to Lookout report for Google, released on June 4, a hidden advertising plugin called BeiTaAd was found to be embedded in 238 unique applications in Google Play store, and the applications amount to more than 440 million installations.

The plugin forcibly displays ads on the user’s lock screen, triggers video and audio advertisements even while the phone is asleep, and displays out-of-app ads that interfere with a user’s interaction with other applications on their device, Lookout said. It said all the apps embedded with BeiTaAd were published by CooTek.

CooTek was founded in 2008 in Shanghai and got listed on the NYSE in September 2018. By March 2019, the number of its monthly active users has reached 252 million. The mobile internet company is best known for its keyboard app TouchPal, which has over 100 million installs according to Google Play page.

The company said that it takes the matter very seriously and is in continuous communication with Google to clarify the issue, and that the matter “will not affect CooTek’s existing users’ use of the relevant apps.”

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