Google bans TouchPal keyboard dev CooTek from Play Store, ad platform

It's not rare to hear about malware that gets past Google Play Store's defenses or even some that masquerade as legitimate apps. But when malware gets embedded inside those legit apps in an official manner things are bound to get messy. Unfortunately for Chinese software house CooTek, it is on the receiving end of a sanction that bans it not just from Google Play Store but even from Google's ad platforms.

Few may have heard of the company but some might actually be familiar with one of CooTek's most popular app, the TouchPal keyboard. Although nothing compared to the likes of Swiftkey, which was eventually bought by Microsoft, CootTek managed to strike some deals to get TouchPal pre-installed on some Android devices, like those from Lenovo.

Unfortunately, TouchPal and 237 other apps by CooTek was recently discovered to use a BeiTaAd adware plug-in that blatantly violated Google's policies for Google Play Store and ads. Specifically, apps using the plugin would popup ads everywhere, even in critical situations like making phone calls. This lead users to complain about ads making their phones basically unusable in those instances.

CooTek seemingly acted as a good Android citizen and took action to remove the BeiTaAd plugin from its apps. Unfortunately, it seems that it had replaced that with some less obvious methods of doing the same malicious ad activity. This time, only 58 apps manifested that behavior but it seems more than enough to get Google to pay attention again.

Unlike in the previous report, CooTek now disputes the allegation that it continues to engage in the activity. Google, however, seems to have found enough evidence to ban the company from its platforms. For a company whose bread and butter is Android apps and ads, that is a very damning ban.