US ad fraud consultancy Method Media Intelligence has written a report into one of the most popular games on the Google Play Store, accusing it of being a “major source of fraudulent traffic and games install attribution”.

Word Link, a game developed by Worzzle Games, is one of the top games on the Google Play Store, with around 50 million downloads. ​We have contacted the game developer and asked for a response.

According to the report, which was provided to Which-50 by the author, Worzzle Games has no online presence or business details that are easily accessible. The business address is listed as Grand Pavilion, Hibiscus Way, 802 West Bay Road, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. The developer for Word Link is listed as ZHOU JIAPING1.

Which-50 tried to locate further details by tracking the domain registration of boooea.com, the email listed in the Play Store, which appears to have been purchased via eNom, a domain name registar. However, details have been hidden by the Whois Privacy Protection service.

We have been able to identify a single employee based in Beijing named Clover Yang, who described herself as a business manager.

Red flags

Method Media Intelligence notes that the majority of the 477,537 reviews of Word Link on the Play Store appear to be from bots.

The company conducted an analysis of traffic by purchasing inventory through a programmatic platform and targeting the iOS and Android Apps. The researchers tested a small amount of traffic ($100) and found 80 per cent of the traffic was invalid.

Impressions were purchased on both iOS and Android and revealed that Android devices had a far higher proportion of fraudulent traffic.

“The Google Play Store, although dealing with far greater volumes of app submissions and users than the Apple App Store, is clearly not doing enough to combat this with adequately strict approval and diligent review processes,” the report states.

“Our hope is that this detailed review of Word Link and Worzzle will result in the removal and re-assessment of these apps by Google, and spur a wider review of Google’s policies that dictate what apps are allowed onto their store for their users’ consumption.”

MMI also argue Word Link is gaming attribution — taking credit for app installs — by listening for installed apps and logging referrer information.

“This example is one of thousands of apps that perpetrate this type of malicious activity, meant to counterfeit data that sways attribution counts in their own favour,” the authors write.

They say this has two side effects; it means they are stealing credit for advertiser campaign performance events (ie installs [paid], purchases) from legitimate publishers with genuine human interaction, and they are fabricating performance events (ie clicks, installs [free]) out of thin air with emulator activity.

Joseph Brookes contributed reporting to this article

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