Last week, Google removed at least 46 apps by Chinese developer iHandy from its Android app marketplace Google Play without explanation, BuzzFeed News reported.

Why it matters: As app fraud from malicious advertising practices and leaks of personal data become increasingly prevalent among Android apps, marketplaces such as Google Play are taking a more rigorous approach when vetting products to distribute.

Details: As of Friday afternoon, only six of the company’s apps remain on Google Play, down from the eight that Buzzfeed reported.

  • The 46 removed apps cover selfie, security, and health apps. One of the most popular apps was a face filter and selfie-editor tool named “Sweet Camera” which had been downloaded more than 50 million times.
  • Google said that it is conducting an investigation of iHandy but refused to disclose further details.
  • A vice president from iHandy told BuzzFeed that the removal was unexpected, adding that the company is trying to find out the reasons and is in contact with Google to restore the apps.
  • Beijing-based iHandy filed to list on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in April, claiming to have 180 million monthly active users across its apps worldwide. It also listed Google as its biggest customer in 2018.

Context: Google banned two other major Chinese app developers, Do Global in April and CooTek in July, from its ad platforms and Google Play, citing violations of advertising policies. Apps from the two companies had racked up more than 1 billion downloads on Google Play.

  • Do Global, partly owned by search engine giant Baidu, was banned for committing ad fraud and concealing app ownership details from users.
  • CooTek’s ban came after its apps continued to bombard users with disruptive ads even when the company claimed to have removed the malicious ad plug-in causing such activities.

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail:

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