Forbes published an article earlier today regarding an app called CleanMaster, a security tool promising anti-virus and private browsing. It had more than 1 billion installs before it was evicted and, despite Google’s ban, is one of Android’s most downloaded apps ever devices and is likely still running on millions of phones. Whilst Google hasn’t commented on what it knew about the app, created by China’s Cheetah Mobile, Forbes has learned a security company provided the tech giant with evidence the tool was collecting all manner of private web use data.
The risk posed by mobile apps security will affect all individuals, not only companies. #MobileSecurity #infosechttps://t.co/gf1RfICLlh
— Muhammad Malik (@drmuhammadmalik) March 4, 2020
The significance of Clean Master\’s ban from Google Play shouldn\’t be understated. Cheetah Mobile has been the third-biggest Android app publisher on Google Play behind only Facebook and Google itself. Clean Master was its most popular app to date, once the sixth-most downloaded Android app in the world. Long before TikTok caught on, Cheetah Mobile was one of the only Chinese app makers to successfully break into markets outside of China, accounting for 50% of its user base. Most of these users were owners of cheap Android phones who used Cheetah Mobile\’s utility apps to boost speeds and free up memory. These apps claim to require intrusive permissions to function, giving Cheetah unfettered access to info about its users. Cheetah Mobile also acquired three western ad networks. I suspect it harvested data from users to feed its advertising algorithm, and at some point stepped over the line of what\’s acceptable to Google. Given the company\’s record of other apps being banned, I wouldn\’t touch any Cheetah Mobile app with a ten-foot pole.