Google has removed more than 600 apps from the Play Store and banned them from the Google AdMob and Google Ad Manager advertising platforms for violating policies on disruptive ads.
The massive Google Play Store marketplace holds lots of interesting apps, but it’s also home to less-than-honest apps and developers out just to make a quick buck. One way to make money is through ads, but apps that only show ads when they are running may not make so much money.
So, developers find ways to show ads even when the apps are not in use, which is a clear violation of existing policies. Of course, some mechanisms are in place to counter harmful and dishonest apps, but it’s not a perfect system. And malevolent developers always seek new ways to circumvent protections.
“We define disruptive ads as ads that are displayed to users in unexpected ways, including impairing or interfering with the usability of device functions,’ says Per Bjorke, Senior Product Manager, Ad Traffic Quality. “While they can occur in-app, one form of disruptive ads we’ve seen on the rise is something we call out-of-context ads, which is when malicious developers serve ads on a mobile device when the user is not actually active in their app.”
It might not seem like a big problem, but it’s a sure way to disrupt phone usage. Imagine trying to shut down a full-screen app that has no exit button right when you’re attempting to answer a call. And this is just one of many situations in which ads can be intrusive, especially since they’re not running inside the apps that serve them.
Fighting this problem is an ongoing process, and Google says it’s now enrolling the help of a machine-learning tool that should be able to spot these apps before they cause any damage. The only issue is that such tools sometimes cause collateral damages as well, at least before it has a chance to learn what they need to do.