Google Patents Method of Keeping Pirate Apps at Bay

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Google has secured a patent to help keep pirated applications off its Google Play store. By performing analysis on apps submitted by users, the company hopes to discover whether they contain significant sections of other apps' code while at the same time filtering out open source and free license-related false positives.

google-bayRegular users of the Google Play store will be aware that apps sometimes appear which are very similar to already established apps. These clones are often designed to take advantage of successful apps’ popularity by ripping off their code in order to generate advertising revenue.

These kinds of apps aren’t knowingly welcomed by most Android users, with people preferring the real deal if at all possible. That said, keeping them off the Google Play store is easier said than done, so they can get installed by significant numbers of people should they sneak through. Google, however, is planning to do something about that in the future.

Following an application in July 2013, Google Inc. has now been awarded a patent which should help the company keep pirated and cloned content off its Play store. The system itself is fairly complex, but the way it works is relatively simple to explain.

First of all, Google’s patent requires a reference database of all known ‘authorized’ apps that have already been uploaded to Google Play by legitimate software creators. It then compares submitted apps with the contents of the database in order to find instances where they contain assets that are already utilized by known software.

According to the patent the system won’t compare the submitted apps in their entirety, but will instead look for executable code, data files, images and audio files that appear in existing applications already on the store. Based on this a submitted app will receive a “similarity rating.”

Detecting a submitted pirated/cloned appGoogleApp2

However, Google has recognized that a blanket scanning approach could cause problems. If many apps use open source code or freely available images or audio libraries, for example, the likelihood of completely legal apps becoming labeled as infringing increases. To deal with this type of problem, Google says it will use a filtering system.

“In order to prevent false positive results, the systems and methods herein filter these types of assets from the comparison. The determination as to which assets are considered to be trusted assets can be made based on data associated with the known software applications,” Google’s patent reads.

The system for filtering and recognizing ‘trusted assets’GoogleApp1

The complete patent, which doesn’t mention Google Play by name but clearly refers to it, is available here. In the meantime anyone who feels their app has been cloned will have to use the existing system to have unauthorized content examined and if necessary taken down.


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