Harmful ad networks collecting more information on their users than required have been given 45 days to fix their services, or they will be blacklisted as adware by mobile security firm Lookout.
Lookout security expert Jeremy Linden said the blockade is essential to combat the growing number of – officially legitimate – mobile advertising networks running on mobile marketplaces and apps that are collecting information without good reason.
"Over the past year we've seen a marked increase in ‘adware', software that contains ad networks that compromise a user's privacy or interfere with his experience. While the majority of mobile ads are legitimate, there are a few bad ad networks that put users at risk," wrote Linden.
"Ad networks and advertisers are both the gatekeepers for vast amounts of personal data and an important part of the overall mobile ecosystem; it's important that they get user privacy right."
The devious ad networks have been able to continue operating due to a lack of clarification within the security community about what adware is.
"Currently, there is inconsistency in the way adware is classified by the mobile industry. This lack of clarity gets in the way of tackling the problem," wrote Linden.
"Today, we are announcing rules and standards for acceptable advertising practices that promote good user experience and privacy best practices. We will give the industry – ad networks, advertisers, app developers – a set amount of time to change their practices; if the advertising does not abide by these rules it will be classified as adware."
The definition will list any ad network that displays advertising outside of the normal in-app experience, harvests unusual personally identifiable information or performs unexpected actions as a response to ad clicks, without gaining the users' permission to do so, as adware.
Unmoderated advertising networks are a growing problem on mobile ecosystems. Android is by far the worst hit due to Google's ongoing policy of not pre-vetting applications and services loaded onto the operating system. Most recently Lookout discovered the BadNews malware targeting the Android ecosystem, which avoided detection by embedding itself in advertising networks hosted in legitimate applications.
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