Google has been cleaning its Play Store of all the Android apps that promise that they track the spread of the coronavirus. There is a policy that bans those COVID-19 related apps that a national government or medical institution has not approved. As a result, Google is bound to take such an action against the apps on its Play Store.
However, Forbes analyzed ten such apps and found that one was linked to spreading disinformation actively. On top of that, they all had at least 40,000 downloads combined before Google took them down.
The damage was done
One of the developers of such an app was Sim&Co. They had a “Wuhan Coronavirus map,” which had over 100,000 downloads and several reviews. SensorTower, an app monitor, stated that this app promised to share information like symptoms and names of people who died due to the virus in the user’s region. The same developer had another app called “Make Fake News,” which scored more than 10,000 downloads. It actively encouraged its users to change words in news site articles. Google has banned both these apps.
The developer did not respond to Forbes’s inquiry. However, the creators of “Coronavirus Contact Check,” Kruz Factory, and “coronavirus Tracker,” ontrac.io, returned to the investigation and said that Google’s policy threw them out of the app store.
Other apps like HealthLynked COVID-19 Tracker and Coronavirus Statistics scored 50,000 downloads but also faced removal from the app store. Developers did not respond to any inquiries. Google has not commented on anything either.
Apple is taking a similar position. It is removing all apps that aren’t officially approved by the government or healthcare industry. Only one app, HealthLynked COVID-19 Tracker, which Forbes reviewed, has an iOS version that is still live on the Apple app store. In fact, around early March, it was one of the highest-rated apps in the store. It is even more surprising that it remains on the app store because HealthLynked is a public company that genuinely partakes in healthcare services.
What to do if you have already downloaded such an app?
For anyone who has these apps, the wisest decision is to delete them. While Google and Apple are taking these apps down from their stores, they cannot do much about the apps that people have already downloaded. Updates will not be present anymore.
For users, these apps will most likely give false information that may exploit the device’s vulnerabilities with malicious intentions. Thus, they should delete the apps to avoid worries about any digital virus when there is a physical one at large.