Imagine having an application with over half a billion downloads and largely positive ratings. Imagine all the money you’d make? It’d be a nice pile. Then, imagine getting greedy, deciding to do some dodgy stuff, and then getting your application banned from the Google Play Store.
That’d suck, right? Well, that’s EXACTLY what happened with Clean Master for Android, following some seriously dodgy activity by its parent company Cheetah Mobile, a Beijing-based tech company. How did this happen? What did Cheetah Mobile do? All will be revealed, so read on…
Clean Master App Banned From Google Play
Back in March 2020, Google systematically removed 600 applications from its Google Play Store. All of the 600 applications violated Google’s terms and conditions in some way. Clean Master was one of these apps and has now been removed from the Play Store.
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Clean Master was apparently collecting private web browsing data from its users. It was then using this data to feed its ad network’s algorithm, a totally uncool move, and something that completely goes against Google’s guidelines. Details gleaned by Clean Master included search queries, which websites they visited, accessing data from private web browsing sessions, WiFi access point names, and search patterns.
Pretty invasive stuff. And the scary part of all this is that Clean Master was installed on over half a BILLION Android phones.
Cheetah Mobile Was Third Biggest Google Play Publisher Behind Facebook and Google Itself…
Cheetah Mobile responded to the claims, stating that it only collected data to make sure the sites being visited by the user were safe. It added that it “does not” track data or breach its users’ privacy, although Cirlig’s analysis and Google’s findings paint a very different picture.
Cheetah Mobile, at the time, was one of the most successful application publishers on Google Play, behind only Facebook and Google itself. It was also one of the only Chinese companies to break out of China, save for TikTok more recently. From the spoils of its app business, Cheetah Mobile acquired three ad networks. It is believed it was using its users’ data to feed its ad networks’ algorithms.
Whatever happened, it’s not good. And this is why you should ALWAYS read an application’s T&Cs before downloading it – far too many applications require invasive access to core elements of your phone and your data. This is why you should always be wary when downloading new applications. Especially ones that are listed as free.
However, if you’re serious about security and protecting your Android phone, you are far better off with something more professional like AVG for Android, which offers comprehensive protection from malware and nefarious applications and software.
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.