Facebook filed a lawsuit against two app developers in Hong Kong and Singapore for engaging in click injection fraud.
In a blog post, Jessica Romero, director of platform enforcement and litigation at Facebook said developers LionMobi based in Hong Kong and JediMobi headquartered in Singapore made apps for the Google Play store that infected users smartphones with malware. The malware created fake user clicks for ads that appeared on the user’s phone.
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Facebook Calls Lawsuit One of the First of its Kind
“LionMobi and JediMobi generated unearned payouts from Facebook for misrepresenting that a real person had clicked on the ads. The ads were part of Facebook’s Audience Network. LionMobi also advertised its malicious apps on Facebook, in violation of our Advertising Policies,” wrote Romero in the blog post. “Our lawsuit is one of the first of its kind against this practice.”
The social media giant said both developers have been banned from the Audience Network and their accounts have been disabled. Facebook said advertisers impacted by the fake clicks were refunded in March without disclosing the amount. Audience Network is Facebook’s platform that enables advertisers to show ads on non-Facebook developed apps. The app developers get a cut of the Facebook ads based on the number of clicks. Google was reportedly also targeted in the scheme.
Malware Infected Apps had Millions of Users
In its lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California 7 July, Facebook contends LionMobi’s “Power Clean-Antivirus and Phone Cleaner App” and the JediMobi’s “Calculator Plus” app for Android included the malware that infected users’ phones. According to one report, the Power Clean app has been downloaded more than 100 million times while the Calculator Plus app has more than 5 million downloads.
Disclosure of the lawsuit comes just a little over a week after Facebook was fined a record $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission as part of a settlement with the government agency. Facebook also agreed to undergo a privacy review of every new product or service it develops. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and a third party assessor must receive the reviews every quarter. Facebook is now required to obtain purpose and use certifications from app developers that want access to Facebook data. That's in direct response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the now-defunct political consulting firm accessed data on 87 million Facebook users without their permission.