A day after it took down 'Remove China Apps' from its Play Store, Google on Thursday said it has recently suspended a number of apps for violating its policy that prohibits the applications from encouraging users to remove other apps.
Google said recent app removals have received particular attention in India, and that it wanted to clarify its actions. It, however, did not name 'Remove China Apps' and 'Mitron' whose removal from Play Store has grabbed attention in the country in the backdrop of the Indo-China border tension. Remove China Apps' allowed users to delete Chinese games and other software from their Android smartphones, while Mitron app was being touted as an Indian alternative for China's TikTok.
Clarifying the rationale behind Google's actions, Android and Google Play Vice-President Sameer Samat said that when apps are allowed to specifically target other apps, it can lead to behaviour that Google believes is not in the best interest of its community of developers and consumers.
"This is a longstanding rule designed to ensure a healthy, competitive environment where developers can succeed based upon design and innovation...We have enforced this policy against other apps in many countries consistently in the past -- just as we did here," he said in a blogpost.
Samat emphasised that Google Play was designed to provide a safe and secure experience for consumers while also giving developers the platform and tools they need to build sustainable businesses. "We recently suspended a number of apps for violating the policy that we don't allow an app that encourages or incentivises users into removing or disabling third-party apps or modifying device settings or features unless it is part of a verifiable security service," he said.
Samat said that earlier this week, a video app was removed for a number of technical policy violations. "We have an established process of working with developers to help them fix issues and resubmit their apps. We've given this developer some guidance and once they've addressed the issue, the app can go back up on Play," he added. The two apps -- Mitron and Remove China Apps -- had drawn millions of downloads in India before they were removed from Google's Play Store.
Mitron app had over 5 million downloads. It may have been taken down due to security issues. Its owner Shibank Agarwal, a student of IIT Roorkee, is believed to have bought the source code of the app from a Pakistani coding company, Qboxus, and rebranded the app as Mitron and launched it in India. The Pakistani version is called TicTic.
Remove China Apps had become a top trending free app on Google's mobile app store in India with more than five million downloads since late May. It helped users identify the country of origin for apps installed on the phone, highlighting Chinese ones and suggesting steps for removal. Once deleted, a message popped up saying, "You are awesome, no China app found."
The app came in the limelight after innovator and educationist Sonam Wangchuk appealed to Indians to boycott Chinese products because of aggression by the Chinese army on the Indian border in the Ladakh region.