If you’ve ever downloaded an app on your Android phone in your life, you’re familiar with ad banners. If you’re not familiar with them, there’s something wrong with you, and you need to evaluate your life mistakes again because you’re doing it all wrong.
Most apps come in two options A) free with an ad banner which generates revenue to the developer when you’re nice enough to click it or B) a paid version where the dev cashes in right there, and you have no pesky banners to stare at. I know, you’re as excited as I am to see that Vonage ad all the time so the free version is mandatory. Ads are a good things. More than 50% of apps use ad providers. Developers make money, they make more product, and we have something that’s at best a minor inconvenience for a product we like to use. They’re all just a harmless trade-off. Right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. And thanks to the guys over at Lookout Mobile Security, there’s a lot more insight to the ad providers that are using aggressive advertising and accessing a lot more info than they let us know and without user consent. Out of the apps they analyzed, about 5% of them used aggressive advertising of some sort. This includes accessing personal information (email, phone numbers, contact names), changing bookmarks, or delivering ads outside of the app itself (such as your notification bar). And 5% may not seem like a huge number, but those apps they tested accounted for 80 million downloads. That’s definitely a number to pay attention to. I’ve personally lucked out so far and haven’t had the contacts manipulation or bookmarks mentioned, but I have had to deal with the ads showing up in the notification bar before and used AirPush Detector to track down which caused it so I could remove them. Look out also has their own scanning app you can download here to help as well.
Unfortunately, Lookout didn’t specifically call out the offending advertisers in their post. It would be nice to be able to really get their attention from the community to show that what they’re doing needs to stop immediately, or devs will stop using their service. They did however chart what percentage of apps were the most problematic based on category. The worst being personalization apps (no big surprise there) which include wallpaper apps, ring tones, etc.