Chinese app developer Cheetah Mobile and its subsidiary Kika Tech, which develops the Kika Keyboard app, are likely to face trouble for a fraudulent click scheme to generate revenue through entirely shady means. According to a new report, the app giant is using unnecessary permissions granted by users to claim ad bounties for other app installs, even if Cheetah and Kika apps didn’t actually get you to install a particular app.
The alleged scheme, reported on by Buzzfeed News based on research by Kochava, suggests that key apps from Cheetah Mobile and its subsidiary Kika Tech are asking for excessive user permissions on Android smartphones, and then using these permissions to claim revenue from advertisers. The scheme works with the apps watching for other app installs on your phone, then crawling for and claiming ad bounties based on those installs. As such, Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech have been claiming to have encouraged various app installs that the two companies may have had nothing to do with.
The scheme largely affects advertisers and app developers, since these firms have been paying out bounties despite the firms not actually serving these ads or getting clicks from them. However, users are affected in the form of an invasion of privacy, along with the constant crawling of the smartphone that could affect battery life. If proven, this could lead to Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech having their eight infringing apps de-listed from the Google Play Store. These apps are said to have a total of two billion installs among them, and the user base leads to a large chunk of Cheetah Mobile’s revenue being generated.
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Cheetah Mobile is itself a subsidiary of Kingsoft, a major app developer based in China. The company has seen a huge jump in revenue on the back of the success of its key apps, including Clean Master, CM Launcher 3D and CM File Manager. While these apps provide key functions, they also serve up ads that help generate revenue for the company. The click fraud scheme is likely to heavily affect the company, as its huge install base and successful apps contribute significantly to the success of the company.