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As reported by BuzzFeed, Shanghai-based CooTek—a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange—had hundreds of apps in the Play Store including free emoji keyboard app TouchPal, which had been downloaded over 100 million times. But 60 of these have now been removed, and more are likely to follow.
"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 told the publication.
CooTek was already on shaky ground after security firm Lookout revealed last month that 238 of its apps, which had been installed over 400 million times, contained the BeiTaAd adware plugin. After sitting silent for between 24 hours and two weeks—a means of hiding the adware’s source— BeiTaAd would trigger disruptive ads when a phone was locked, asleep, or when a CooTek app wasn’t in use. The plugin has resulted in some people being unable to answer calls or interact with apps due to being bombarded with ads.
CooTek apologized and said it had removed the plugin and uploaded clean versions of its apps, but BuzzFeed and Lookout found at least 58 of the updated programs contained old and new code that enabled them to continue serving the same malicious ads, even though BeiTaAd had been removed.
CooTek has denied the claims, saying that “the findings claimed by Lookout this time are lack of evidence and the logic is not convincing," but it seems Google, which has confirmed the findings, disagrees.