New Delhi: Google has pulled down UC Browser, the Alibaba Group-owned mobile web browser, from its Play Store amid alleged unethical data sharing by the Chinese app.
Reports began to appear early on Wednesday over the sudden removal.
Users on technology forum Reddit said the move may have been prompted because UC Browser would serve up ads from its affiliate entities to increase downloads, in violation of Google’s policies.
Mike Ross, who claimed to work at UC Browser, tweeted: “I work for UC Browser, I got mail today morning it said that UC Browser was temporarily removed from play store for 30 days because it used “Misleading” and “Unhealthy” methods of promotion to increase installs.”
“We were informed by Google Play about temporary removal of UC Browser from the Play Store for 7 days, beginning 13 November 2017, under the reason that a certain setting of UC Browser is not in line with Google’s policy. We have conducted an urgent internal investigation and fixed the problem. The new version has been uploaded on Google Play’s Developer Console and is awaiting evaluation. We will actively cooperate with Google Play for any concern caused by this unintentional error,” a UC Browser spokesperson said in an email in response to Mint’s queries.
The allegations against UC Browser are not new.
Reports surfaced in August that India’s information technology (IT) department was reviewing the app after it received complaints that user data was allegedly being sent to Chinese entities, without the consent of the user, and even after the app was uninstalled.
The Times of India reported then, citing an IT department official, that UC Browser may face a ban in India if the allegations were found to be true.
To be sure, UC Browser is still listed on the Apple’s app store and UC Browser Mini, a toned down version of the original browser, is available on Google Play Store.
Google did not give details behind its move.
“We can’t comment on individual apps, but all apps on Google Play must comply with our terms of service,” a spokesperson replied.
UC Browser is the flagship app of UC Web Inc., a part of Alibaba’s Mobile Business Group, which includes products like UC Ads and UC News.
The browser, which recently hit 500 million downloads globally, is fairly popular in India, where the company claims it has 100 million monthly active users.
It had a 45.08% market share in India in October, according to StatCounter.