Security researcher Lukas Stefanko revealed through his Twitter account the existence of at least 15 applications that use Google Maps services as an excuse to display unsolicited advertising.
According to Google Play data, each application would have been installed by more than one million users and together they would add more than 50 million installations. Those apps are using screenshots of other legitimate applications to pass themselves off as geolocation platforms.
“I tested over 15 fake GPS Navigation apps with over 50,000,000 installs from GooglePlay that violate Google rules. These apps just open Google Maps or use their API without any additional value for user, except for displaying ads. Some of them do not even have proper app icon,” says Lukas Stefanko.
“These applications are meant to be full-featured navigation applications, but all they can do is create a useless layer between the User and the Google Maps application,” he added.
The funny thing is that, although some of these applications have their own user interface, they automatically open Google Maps for users to use those navigation services, so they do not offer any additional benefit that justifies their installation.
Purpose of these apps is ad revenue. They do not have any Navigation technology and only misuse Google Maps. Once user clicks on Drive, Navigate, Route, My Location or other option, Google Maps app is opened.
The only function of these applications is to generate money by displaying ads without the user’s permission.One of them even offers to eliminate the ads in exchange for a payment and others requests unusual permissions. So, they could also be considered a risk to the user’s privacy.
Also published on Medium.