Google ejects 700,000 apps from the Play Store using machine learning

by bold-lichterman

According to Google, these are more than 700,000 apps that were deleted from Google Play in 2017 on the grounds that they did not comply with Google Play rules, i.e. 70% more than in 2016. According to Statista, the estimated number of apps available on Google’s app store – which no longer communicates on this indicator – was 3.5 million in December 2017, up 35% from the previous year.

Andrew Ahn, Product Manager Google Play, also indicates in a blog post that the company is able to act pro-actively: “99% of applications offering abusive content were identified and removed even before users installed them.”

100,000 developers blocked

The Mountain View firm says it has implemented machine-learning models in order to detect the abusive content and / or behavior of an application, but also to identify the actors of these bad practices, repeat offenders or large-scale networks. Result: 100,000 bad developers in 2017 were blocked in 2017, and Google is making it difficult to return these under new accounts.

What are the profiles of the deleted applications?

Google gives a typology of the applications ejected by the store:

  • Copycats: A great classic, attempting to deceive the user by spoofing the name or design of famous applications, and which thereby obtain a lot of search traffic on particular keywords. For example, the use of confusing unicode characters, or very similar application icons. Google has removed more than 250,000 such applications.
  • Inappropriate content: We are talking about apps that contain or promote content such as pornography, extreme violence, hate and illegal activity. Machine learning can sift through huge amounts of application submissions, and report them to human reviewers. In 2017, Google detected tens of thousands of such apps.
  • Potentially dangerous applications: PHAs in Google jargon (Potentially Harmful Applications) are malicious applications, which can harbor a lot of whatnot: SMS fraud, Trojans, phishing attempts… Identifying this category is difficult because, by definition, malicious developers redouble their efforts to make themselves as legitimate as possible. Google indicates that it significantly reduced the rate of PHA installations in 2017, without saying more.

Despite the progress made, the question of the security of people and devices remains a challenge for Google: the company Check Point, specializing in security, this month reported several malware, hidden in utility applications or online games , and downloaded several million times each. The reach of the Android ecosystem obviously makes it a prime target for malicious developers: Android today equips around 75% of smartphones in circulation in the world (StatCounter).