If you’ve been in the Android community for any significant length of time, you’ll at least have heard of ES File Explorer — it was quite popular, as the 500 million downloads reported by TechCrunch indicate. Unfortunately, things took a bit of a rough turn when the developers pushed their monetization strategy a little far. When app and device safety comes up, most people immediately think about the safety of their individual devices and the data on them, but this time the offense was against Google itself. Google’s biggest issue with ES File Explorer was that its developer, DO Global, was committing click fraud in many of its apps — a discovery made by reporters at BuzzFeed. Click fraud is the practice of generating ad revenue from in-app ads by faking taps on users’ devices in the background. Essentially, the app was tricking Google and its advertisers, telling them that users were tapping on ads within the app while users, in reality, weren’t tapping anything.
While that’s Google’s issue with ES File Explorer and its developer, there are other issues that are more relevant to the end user — apart from the bad user experience caused by incessant and intrusive ads (via XDA Developers), that is. DO Global owning ES File Explorer also brings up privacy concerns regarding user data stored in China — there are no protections in place (via Wired) to safeguard user data from spying by the Chinese government. Between obtrusive in-app ads, notifications that insisted that you upgrade to the paid version, and the aforementioned privacy concerns and violations of the Google Play Store terms of service, it has become impossible to recommend ES File Explorer.