Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Google Halts Download of Chinese App Pinduoduo Over Security Concerns

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Alphabet Inc.’s

GOOG -0.52%

Google blocked downloads of e-commerce app


PDD -14.17%

after versions of it not carried in its app store were found to contain malware, adding to security concerns about Chinese-developed apps.

The Pinduoduo app, which is owned by PDD Holdings Inc., has been suspended from Google Play over security concerns while it conducts an investigation, a Google spokesperson said Tuesday.

Google Play isn’t available to users in China, which is the biggest market for Pinduoduo, a popular e-commerce platform best known for offering deals for goods by banding consumers together. Android users in China can download apps from app stores operated by Chinese tech companies, such as

Tencent Holdings Ltd.

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Baidu Inc.

Pinduoduo had around 750 million monthly active users during the first quarter of last year—the most recent figure released by the company.

Temu, a popular shopping app in the U.S., also run by PDD, hasn’t been affected and is still available to download, according to Google. 

PDD was informed by Google Play that Pinduoduo’s app has been temporarily suspended because the current version isn’t compliant with Google policies, a Pinduoduo spokesman said.

“We are communicating with Google for more information,” he said.

As the popularity of Chinese-developed apps surges in the U.S., concerns have grown about their safety, including how their operators handle user data and whether such information could be handed over to the Chinese government. App store downloads of PDD’s Temu, which sells low-price goods mostly made in China, alongside TikTok and video editing app CapCut — both developed by ByteDance Ltd.—and fashion marketplace Shein have soared in the U.S. 

TikTok has especially been under the spotlight. The Biden administration has pushed ByteDance’s founders to divest their holdings in TikTok to address concerns over its threats to American national security or face a ban. TikTok has said it wouldn’t share data with Chinese authorities. Its chief executive is slated to testify before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

A feature of Google Play that monitors apps and devices for harmful behavior has been set to block attempts to install the malicious apps linked to Pinduoduo, the Google spokesperson said. Users who have malicious versions of the app downloaded will be warned and prompted to uninstall them, according to the spokesperson.

While Google withdrew its search-engine business in China after refusing to agree to censor its results in the country, its app store has remained open globally to apps from Chinese companies.

Write to Clarence Leong at clarence.leong@wsj.com and Newley Purnell at newley.purnell@wsj.com

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