Google bans app that removed Chinese apps like TikTok for 'deceptive behaviour'

The move comes during a border dispute between China and India

Adam Smith
Thursday 04 June 2020 09:16
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Google has removed an Indian app from its Play Store that allowed users to remove Chinese apps from their phones, saying that it violated company policies.

The app, which was called Remove China Apps and had been particularly popular in India during a border dispute between the two countries, had been downloaded over five million times since May.

Apps removed by the Indian software include ByteDance’s TikTok and Alibaba’s UC Browser. Once deleted, a message popped up saying “You are awesome, no China app found.”

The policy violated by the application is reportedly Google’s Deceptive Behaviour Policy. This policy states that apps:

- Must provide an accurate disclosure, description and images/video of their functionality in all parts of the metadata and should perform as reasonably expected by the user;

- Must not attempt to mimic functionality or warnings from the operating system or other apps;

- Any changes to device settings must be made with the user's knowledge and consent and be easily reversible by the user.

OneTouch AppLabs, which developed the app, has a message on its website thanking users for their support. “Dear Friends, Google has removed ‘Remove China Apps’ from google play store. Thank you all for your support in past 2 weeks. ‘You Are Awesome’” the message reads.

The website also has a disclaimer that states the application is “for educational purposes only to identify the country of origin of a certain application(s), we do not promote or force people to uninstall any of the application(s).”

Many Indians and a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party have used the hashtag "#BoycottChineseProducts" on social media, calling for deletion of popular Chinese apps.

Global Times, a Chinese state-run news site, reported that such “irrational anti-China sentiment” could result in “tit-for-tat punishment from Beijing” citing an anonymous industry source.

Another application, an Indian TikTok clone called Mitron, was also pulled from the Google Play Store. The Indian Express hypothesises that it was due to security issues. Google declined to comment.

Reportedly the owner of the app purchased the source code from a Pakistani coding company and rebranded the app for launch in India without changing the code or the privacy policy. This would mean the app did not have any firewalls or software security installed, and would put user data at risk. The code was allegedly purchased for the equivalent of £27.

Additional reporting from Reuters

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