The Apple App Store and Google Play are flooded with fake reviews

The Apple App Store and Google Play are flooded with fake reviews

Icons on an iPad screen and an Apple Pencil are seen in this illustration photo taken at the store in Krakow, Poland, on Sept. 7, 2022.  (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Neither the Apple App Store nor Google Play can prevent fake and suspicious reviews from infiltrating their platforms. Photo: Getty

About a quarter of apps on Google Play ( GOOG ) have questionable reviews, compared to one in six in Apple’s ( AAPL ) App Store.

The Who? according to Apple’s App Store and Google Play, neither can prevent fake and suspicious reviews from infiltrating their platforms.

The consumer watchdog has conducted a large-scale analysis that suggests millions of consumers may be unwittingly handing over their personal data or money to apps that used fake reviews to trick themselves into the top of two of the world’s biggest app stores.

Which? they initially came across apps using fake five-star ratings after a simple Google search revealed a number of businesses offering rating services for app stores. Some even pay Google to appear at the top of search results as advertised businesses while selling fake app reviews on Google’s own store.

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Check out app brokers that offer bulk downloads, reviews, or upvotes to help your apps rank higher. This makes apps appear more authoritative if they have been downloaded many times. Meanwhile, upvotes manipulate what app store users see — reviews are automatically ordered by “useful” or “relevance” so those with more upvotes appear first, meaning developers can post positive reviews , and the negative ones can be buried.

One fake review broker site, reviewlancer, claims to have sold nearly 53,000 reviews and traded more than 130,000 reviews between apps, while another, AppSally, offers review manipulation across multiple platforms and featured in the former What? fake review tests.

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Rocio Concha, which one? The director of policy and advocacy said: “Apple and Google are unable to prevent fake and suspicious reviews from infiltrating their app stores, leaving consumers at enormous risk of being misled into downloading apps promoted through unscrupulous tactics.”

For the Google Play Store, a quarter (25%) of apps in the health and fitness category and one in five apps (22%) in the games category raised all four red flags for suspicious reviews.

In the Apple App Store, one in six (17%) apps in the health and fitness category and one in seven (15%) apps in the games category raised four red flags for suspicious reviews.

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Another red flag is the apparent bulk uploading of reviews. Which? he found that there were clusters of four- and five-star reviews over a few days, then very few for weeks or months before another spike occurred. These spikes are likely to coincide with the application of the review broker. For well-known apps, reviews have been coming in steadily, with very few significant spikes in activity.

Which? also looked at the length of the review. Five-star dating app reviews that showed signs of suspicious activity averaged less than 20 characters and were significantly shorter than one- or two-star app reviews. For Tinder, five-star reviews approached 150 characters.

The government is expected to introduce reforms to crack down on fake reviews through its Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill.

Concha said: “Our latest findings show why digital markets, competition and consumer law are so urgently needed to combat fake reviews and the dominance of tech giants, and ultimately shape consumer protection laws for the digital age.”

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Apple has said that submitting fraudulent reviews is a violation of the Apple Developer Program license agreement, and developers who try to cheat the system can be removed from their apps.

The company added that it had systematically detected and blocked more than 94 million reviews and more than 170 million ratings from being posted for not meeting moderation standards in 2021. An additional 610,000 reviews were also removed after publication based on customer concerns and additional human reviews.

Which? Googled her findings. He said which one? that it would not provide a statement about research related to reviews unless it was provided to the Which? with all its underlying research.

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