This is How Google is Killing Intru­sive Apps on Android


The Google Play Store is unarguably the biggest repository of apps among all of the popular operating system app stores, but in the recent times, it has been criticised to allow malicious apps to slip into the fold — compromising user privacy and security.

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Towards this end, Google has started using Peer Group Analysis to identify and weed out any app that seems to be behaving in a manner that is significantly different to other apps from the same category and similar functionality.

While Apple reviews each and every app that is made available on their app store, Google has automated the reviewing process, leveraging the power of machine learning to check the app for malicious behaviour.

Google’s automated security system is quite efficient, but since it’s a developing tech, it comes with its own loopholes which allow several hundreds of intrusive apps to surface on the Play Store.

These intrusive apps might look innocent, but in all likeliness are running background processes like collecting your location information or phone data.

In order to take control of Android’s app store’s security and work towards providing greater privacy to its users, Google has started using Peer group analysis methodology to get rid of apps that don’t play along with the rules.

During the Peer group analysis, apps are split into groups of apps with similar functionality and then a baseline is established which is used to find any anomalous behaviour which can result in the intrusion of privacy and security of a user.

“The correlation between different peer groups and their security signals helps different teams at Google decide which apps to promote and determine which apps deserve a more careful look by our security and privacy experts,” the company stated.

Peer Group Analysis
Apps are clustered into groups and are then tested for anomalous behaviour.

Per se, it’s highly unlikely for a photo editing app to ask for our location permission, but if it does, then the automated system will flag the app.

The algorithm used in the peer group analysis automates the entire peer group analysis process and only intimidates a human expert once an app with malicious nature is identified and flagged.

Earlier this year, the company had added security features to its app, which built upon the existing ones and provided additional security to the users.

The Google Play Store already had a feature called ‘Verify apps‘ which would analyze an app before it’s installed onto your device for potential threats.

Google added another security feature — Play Protect — which doesn’t need user intervention but is an automated security feature embedded into the Google Play services of every device which works in the background around the clock.

While with all this tech in place, Google is still struggling to keep malicious apps at bay. We can only hope that with technological advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the security around Google Play store and its apps will improve.

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Bike enthusiast, traveller, ManUtd follower, army brat, word-smith; Delhi University, Asian College of Journalism, Cardiff University alumnus; a journalist breathing tech these days.