Google Pulls Chinese Pinduoduo App Off Play Store Over Security Concerns

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
March 21, 2023Science & Tech

Google recently pulled the Chinese-owned Pinduoduo app off of its Google Play App Store after malware was found on a Chinese version of the app.

“Off-Play versions of this app that have been found to contain malware have been enforced on via Google Play Protect,” the Google Play spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

Though Google Play hasn’t found the malware on the version of the app distributed through its app store, the technology and search engine company is preventing users from downloading “Off-Play” versions of the app on devices that use Google Play. Google also decided to suspend the Play Store version of the app while it continues to scrutinize the app.

“Google Play Protect enforcement has been set to block installation attempts of these identified malicious apps,” the Google Play spokesperson said. “Users that have malicious versions of the app downloaded to their devices are warned and prompted to uninstall the app. We have suspended the Play version of the app for security concerns while we continue our investigation.”

Pinduoduo is an e-commerce website developed by the Shanghai-based PDD Holdings. Pinduoduo’s e-commerce service is primarily used as a way for farmers to sell their agricultural products. PDD Holdings has also developed the Temu e-commerce service.

“Google Play has informed us this morning that Pinduoduo App has been temporarily suspended as the current version is not compliant with Google’s Policy, but has not shared more details,” a Pinduoduo spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Pinduoduo said several other apps have also been suspended by Google Play and said suspensions can happen for any number of reasons. Google did not comment on other apps that the Play Store service may have suspended.

PDD Holdings’ shares fell 1.8 percent in premarket trading on Tuesday amid news of the app’s suspension on the Google Play Store.

NTD News reached out to Apple, which runs the App Store service that offers versions of popular apps that are compatible with its iOS operating system. Apple did not respond to the request for comment before this article was published. An iOS version of the Pinduoduo app was still listed on the Apple App Store as of Tuesday afternoon.

US On Watch For Malicious Chinese Tech

Google’s decision to suspend the Pinduoduo app on its Google Play App Store comes as the United States is becoming increasingly wary of cybersecurity vulnerabilities related to Chinese apps and technology services.

Some U.S. lawmakers have been calling for an outright ban of popular video-sharing social media app TikTok over allegations the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, can use the app to surveil and influence the app’s users.

Congress has banned Tiktok on Federal government devices and more than half of U.S. states have followed along with their own bans of the app on state government devices. Lawmakers are now pursuing a total nationwide TikTok ban.

The recent Quinnipiac University poll found that a 49 percent plurality of U.S. respondents supported banning TikTok in the United States, while 42 percent opposed a ban. Nine percent said they don’t know whether either way where they stand on a ban.

President Donald Trump sought to ban another Chinese app, WeChat, from operating in the United States, but President Joe Biden reeled back the Trump-era effort after taking office.

Beyond phone apps, U.S. officials have also worked to block Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and China Telecom from operating in the United States, again commonly citing concerns that the services can be used to surveil Americans.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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