Although the Google Play store does a pretty good job of getting rid of apps that contain malware, it doesn’t do nearly as well when it comes to tossing out apps that contain adware. A new study from mobile security company Lookout shows that 6.5% of free Android apps on Google Play contain adware, which the company defines as software that will “display advertising outside of the normal app experience, harvest unusual personally identifiable information, or perform unexpected actions as a response to ad clicks” without a user’s consent. The firm also estimates that 1 million American Android users downloaded adware over the past year, so it seems that adware’s reach is fairly widespread. Lookout’s press release follows below.
Lookout Raises the Bar on Adware Classification
Seeking to Curb Aggressive Advertising Behaviors, Lookout Helps Shape Industry Standards and Flags Intrusive Adware
San Francisco, CA, June 26 — Lookout, the leader in security technology that protects people and businesses from mobile threats, today announced its standard for classifying adware. Adware is an ad network that exhibits intrusive behavior without gaining appropriate consent from a user, which can pose a privacy risk. Additionally, Lookout now flags ad networks newly classified as adware in Lookout Mobile Security for Android, providing users with new insight and information on how to remove any applications containing adware.
Mobile privacy is an increasingly important topic for consumers and app developers, and adware is a risk to user privacy and one of the most prevalent threats on mobile worldwide. Lookout found that the global likelihood of a new Android Lookout user having adware on their device is 1.6%, and approximately 6.5% of free apps on Google Play today contain adware. In the past year, Lookout estimates that more than one million US Android users downloaded adware.
Ad networks are a vital element in the mobile ecosystem, allowing app developers a way to offer free applications to consumers. Ad networks that overstep user privacy bounds or negatively affect user experience create conflict, compromising not only consumers’ privacy and user experience, but also the developer community that relies on mobile ad networks to bring free products to market.
To date, there has not been a widely-adopted set of guidelines that define what constitutes adware by the broader mobile industry. Lookout defines adware as an ad network that exhibits one or more of the following intrusive behaviors without requesting appropriate user consent: display advertising outside of the normal app experience, harvest unusual personally identifiable information, or perform unexpected actions as a response to ad clicks. Appropriate user consent entails providing a clear alert in the application that allows the user to accept or decline before any of the above behaviors takes place.
Lookout has demonstrated an ongoing commitment in guiding the industry to safer mobile advertising practices. In July 2012, Lookout released Mobile App Advertising Guidelines, a playbook aimed to curb aggressive ad network behavior and encourage the mobile advertising and developer communities to adopt practices that prioritize transparency and user privacy.
The Lookout app for Android now flags ad networks that Lookout classifies as adware, so Lookout users have the ability to make more informed decisions about the apps they have on their device. Download the Lookout app for Android from Google Play.
- Lookout found that the global likelihood of a new Android Lookout user having adware on their device is 1.6%, which is relatively higher than other mobile threats.
- In the US, a new Lookout user has a 0.9% likelihood of having adware on their device, as recently released in Lookout’s Mobile Threats Around the World report.
- In the past year, Lookout estimates that more than one million U.S. Android users downloaded adware.
- Today, approximately 6.5% of free apps on Google Play contain adware, but the prevalence of adware in third-party app stores is significantly higher.
- Lookout found adware is most prevalent in personalization (26%), racing (23%) and sports games (18%) applications categories.
How to Stay Safe:
- When downloading apps, make sure you are aware of and comfortable with the application’s permissions before giving consent.
- Only download apps from official app stores, such as Google Play or the App Store.
- Use a security app, like Lookout, that will inform you if adware is detected on your device.