Reckons 5% of apps are from an aggressive ad network
Mobile security specialist, Lookout, has been analysing some 380,000 free apps to examine the privacy threats people face. It believes that approximately 50 per cent of free apps are powered by ad networks. However, it has concluded that some ad networks can be aggressive in their advertising techniques. In order to counter that threat, the company has released its mobile app advertising guidelines: – ‘A Framework for Encouraging Innovation While Protecting Privacy’, apparently. These are aimed at the ad providers and can be found here. The company claims that apps with aggressive networks have been downloaded at least 80 million times by conservative estimates.Lookout argues that mobile advertising is critical to a free app experience and fuels the revenue of the app developer.
However, it warns that, “Currently the boundaries are unclear around how apps and advertisements must treat the end-user’s personal information and appropriately display out-of-app advertisements.”
GoMobile News is not sure about the value of Lookout’s guidelines as this is probably something which the mobile advertising industry can police itself.
However, its list of ‘aggressive behaviours is extremely useful.
This bad behaviour is pretty obvious – ‘Ad networks which take an email address or phone number without the user’s permission.’
We think Lookout means hiome screen instead of desktop in this one : – ‘Ad networks which install icons to on the desktop; push ads to your notification bar; or change your browser settings, without the user’s permission.’
What is interesting is that Lookout found that on Google Play, apps in the personalisation category (such as wallpaper apps) have the highest percentage of aggressive ad networks (at 17 per cent); closely followed by comics (13 per cent); arcade & action (10 per cent); and Entertainment (8 per cent).
Lookout’s Guidelines suggest best practices in the following areas: – transparency and clarity of data collection; individual control over information collected; ad delivery and display behaviour; collection and retention of personal or device-specific data; and secure transport of sensitive data.
“Select mobile ad providers have adopted aggressive behaviour over the last year, including pushing out-of-app ads, changing browser and desktop settings, and accessing personally identifiable information without suitable notification or transparency,” Kevin Mahaffey, CTO with Lookout, revealed.
“For years many years, desktop users were plagued with programs that triggered pop-ups, added unwanted toolbars, and changed homepages,” Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum.
He added, “These guidelines make it clear that while mobile marketing business models and practices are still developing, some practices are out-of-bounds.”
If nothing else, these guidelines should trigger some debate on how to censure mobile ad networks which have overstepped the mark.