Google has suspended the Chinese shopping app Pinduoduo on its Play Store after malware was discovered in some versions of the retail platform from other sources.
Google said in a statement Tuesday that it suspended Pinduoduo on the Google Play app store out of “security concerns” and that it was investigating the matter.
The suspension of Pinduoduo — mainly used in China — comes amid heightened U.S.-China tensions over Chinese-owned apps such as TikTok, which some U.S. lawmakers say could be a national security threat. They allege that such apps could be used to spy on American users.
TikTok is at a crossroads as lawmakers seem closer than ever to the unprecedented act of blocking the app altogether. Its Chinese owner, ByteDance, also faces pressure from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews transactions that could affect national security, and could be forced sell the U.S. app to another company.
The RESTRICT Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate this month, allows the U.S. Commerce Secretary to ban foreign technology companies, as well as encourages the intelligence service to declassify information on potential risks.
“Malicious versions” blocked from Google Play
Popular in China, Pinduoduo is an e-commerce app which often offers discounts if users team up to buy multiples of an item. Google warned users Tuesday to uninstall any Pinduoduo app not downloaded from its own Play Store. Downloads of Android and even iOS apps can often be found on websites that allow people to download mobile applications without going through official stores.
“Google Play Protect enforcement has been set to block installation attempts of these identified malicious apps,” Google said in its statement. “Users that have malicious versions of the app downloaded to their devices are warned and prompted to uninstall the app.”
It was unclear if there are similar security concerns around the Pinduoduo app for Apple users, and Pinduoduo was still available to download from Apple’s iOS store Tuesday.
In a statement, Pinduoduo said that Google had not shared more details with the company beyond informing it that the current version of its app was “not compliant with Google’s policy.”
“We strongly reject the speculation and accusation that Pinduoduo app is malicious just from a generic and nonconclusive response from Google,” Pinduoduo said in the statement.
Hong Kong-traded shares in the company tumbled 14.2% on Tuesday.
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