Google flagged popular Chinese e-commerce startup Pinduoduo’s app as malware and removed it from the Play Store. The announcement has come after various security researchers found malicious code samples in the off-Play versions of the app.
Google has enforced the Google Play Protect policy while banning Pinduoduo app. This policy is basically a security mechanism, blocking the malicious app and alerting those who have already downloaded it. The malicious app was present in the app stores of Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi. It is still unclear whether these companies have launched an investigation into the matter or not.
“Off-Play versions of this app that have been found to contain malware have been enforced on via Google Play Protect,” a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch. Off-Play versions refer to those apps which are not available on Google Play Store.
This announcement comes at a time when U.S. lawmakers are openly accusing Chinese apps such as TikTok as a national security threat. However, unlike TikTok, Pinduoduo has a negligible user base in the United States.
The app is widely used in China where the Play Store is not even available. Another app of the same company (PDD Holdings) — Temu is still available to download in the United States as well as India.
“Google Play Protect enforcement has been set to block installation attempts of these identified malicious apps,” Google told Bloomberg. Users that have malicious versions of the app downloaded to their devices are warned and prompted to uninstall the app.
Although Google’s step should be lauded, It is important to note that Google is under fire after a report has been published by Mozilla that Google Play’s Stores Data Safety labels were misleading and false. It is still unclear as to the effect of the suspension on the company as Pinduoduo has offered no comments yet.
Pinduoduo was founded in 2015 by PDD Holdings. The company started as a fresh agriculture platform before expanding to become a leading e-commerce player with approximately 900 million users, most of them in China.