The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled with technology company Vulcun over FTC charges that it “unfairly replaced a popular web browser game with a program that installed applications on consumers’ mobile devices without their permission.”
The FTC alleged that Vulcun (including founders, Ali Moiz and Murtaza Hussain) purchased “Running Fred,” a Google Chrome browser extension game used by more than 200,000 consumers. Then it was replaced with Vulcun’s own extension, which purported to offer users unbiased recommendations of popular Android applications, according to the FTC.
In fact, Vulcun’s extension installed apps directly on the Android devices of consumers, completely bypassing the permissions process in the Android operating system.
“After Vulcun acquired the Running Fred game, they used it to install a different app, commandeer people’s computers, and bombard them with ads,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We’re very pleased we were able to stop these practices.”
“The extension installed by Vulcun caused a number of consumers to complain to Google, the owner of both Chrome and Android, according to the FTC,” noted the agency’s report. “Some complained that the browser extension was opening multiple tabs and windows on their browser advertising various apps. Others complained about the installation of apps on their mobile device without their permission, noting that the apps would reinstall themselves even when deleted.
In addition, the complaint alleges that Vulcun misled consumers by saying that their extensions, including Weekly Android Apps and another called Apps By Cindy, provided independent and impartial selections of apps, as well as misrepresenting third-party endorsements received by the extensions.
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement was 4-0. The FTC will soon publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register.