When you download a useful app with premium features, always check to make sure it’s actually free. A subset of programs on Google Play and the Apple App Store deceptively offer free access when you first download them, only to switch gears and start charging you once your “free trial” ends.
These types of apps, now known as “fleeceware,” are just the latest semi-legitimate scams to persist on mainstream app stores and download sites. Because what they’re doing isn’t completely illegal, these apps have managed to swindle millions of users out of money each month with bogus fees and subscription charges. Tap or click here to see how it works.
And now, an app installed by more than 40 million users has been identified and confirmed as a fleeceware. Here’s what you need to know about this dangerous app. Plus, we’ll show you how another shady app is stealing user-created content without permission. Couldn’t these apps just ask nicely before uploading our content or charging us?
Fleeceware lurks on the Google Play Store
A popular app with more than 40 million downloads has been removed from the Google Play store following allegations that it was stealthily fleecing users with vague subscription fees. According to researchers at Upstream, the popular video-downloader Snaptube has made over $100 million from fraudulent user transactions alone.
Here’s how it works: Users download Snaptube with the intention of using it to download YouTube videos to watch later. Meanwhile, the app’s “free trial” period quickly expires, which then kicks users towards a paid subscription model that happens in the background. Thanks to Google Play’s infrastructure, this results in numerous unwanted charges.
Snaptube, to its credit, denies this is an intentional issue, but claims that a third-party app that Snaptube communicates with may be responsible. Still, once Upstream’s reporting was revealed, Google took the steps to remove Snaptube from its Play Store. Unfortunately, the program is still widely available on third-party app stores.
If you have this program on your phone whatsoever, your best bet is to delete it immediately to avoid being charged. Doing so will prevent the app from charging you fees, as it’s no longer available on Google Play.
It’s a shame that this had to happen to such a popular app, as there is some utility in being able to download videos from YouTube. Still, this isn’t the first time a seemingly useful app turned out to be fleeceware in disguise. Tap or click here to see how a group of popular VPN apps was charging users behind the scenes on iOS.
Important note: Make sure that you are not violating anyone’s copyrights by downloading videos, as that would be breaking the law; however, videos that fall into the Public Domain, Creative Commons and CopyLeft are fair game for downloading, although you could be violating YouTube’s Terms of Service.
Google removes an app that steals user content, not money
Snaptube isn’t the only troublesome app that Google removed from its embattled app store. According to Wired, Zynn, an app that pays users to watch streaming videos, was discovered to have plagiarized content from several popular TikTok users — including entire profiles — without permission. Tap or click here for a quick rundown on TikTok.
Zynn was designed as a direct competitor to TikTok, and the Chinese company behind it has a notorious rivalry with the company behind TikTok. Unlike TikTok, which has enjoyed huge success in the West, Zynn’s parent app has struggled to break into markets beyond China’s borders.
Due to content theft, Google has removed the app from its Play Store, but you can still download Zynn from Apple’s App Store at this time. We wouldn’t recommend using this app if it’s stealing content from TikTok users since that means the app’s developers have no qualms with stealing in the first place.
It begs the question: What’s stopping them from going further?
In any case, it’s better not to take any chances with shady apps, and to stick to programs you’re familiar with when exploring programs on your device’s app store. Whether they’re fleecing users or hosting content without permission, the bad apps will eventually get caught and removed. In the meantime, however, there’s no telling the damage they can wreak.