Google delists 17 apps from Play store for copying users phone numbers

Godfrey Elimian
*Google removed more than a dozen apps for breaching privacy policy | *Reiterates need for app developers to be clear with users about the information they share
Google playstore
Google delists app for violating policy

Global search engine, Google, has removed a dozen of apps from its Play store for violating its user policy on sharing or obtaining personal information of users who download apps from its Play store.

This week, it removed 17 Android applications from the official Play store after it discovered that the apps had been infected with the Joker (aka Bread) malware according to security researchers from Zscaler.

“The spyware is designed to steal SMS messages, contact lists, and device information along with silently signing up victims for premium wireless application protocol (WAP) services”, according to Viral Gandhi – Zscaler security researcher.

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Google’s User data policy

Google’s user data policy as well as its API Terms of Service, govern the use of Google API services when you request access to Google user data. The provisions of the policy clearly states to developers that clear and accurate information explaining the types of data being requested for must be provided.

According to BBC sources, Google had earlier warned app developers after series of investigation, that were culpable of violating its policy.

Google earlier warnings

In December 2021, Google had previously warned app developers that uses its platform of the need to be clear with users about the information they share. According to the BBC, they said apps which failed to comply with their data policy face being banned from its Play store.

List of apps delisted

Google Play store-apps.png

The 17 apps were delisted from Google’s Play store after following internal procedures. Google removed the apps from the Play store, used the Play protect service to disable the apps on infected devices, but users who already downloaded these apps still needs to manually intervene and remove the apps from their devices.

The name of the apps delisted are listed below:

  • All Good PDF Scanner
  • Mint Leaf Message-Your Private Message
  • Unique Keyboard – Fancy Fonts and Free Emoticons
  • Tangram App Lock
  • Direct Messenger
  • Private SMS
  • One Sentence Translator – Multifunctional Translator
  • Style Photo Collage
  • Meticulous Scanner
  • Desire Translate
  • Talent Photo Editor – Blur focus
  • Care Message
  • Part Message
  • Paper Doc Scanner
  • Blue Scanner
  • Hummingbird PDF Converter – Photo to PDF
  • All Good PDF Scanner

The 17 apps were infected with the Joker malware which Google described in January 2020 as one of the most persistent threats it dealt with since 2017. They include a QR code scanner, a weather app, Muslim prayer apps and many others.

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