Some degree of ads on the apps we frequently use has become accepted as a necessary evil, something most people are willing to put up with in exchange for free software.
But a slew of apps across the Google Play Store — 85 by 9 to 5 Google’s count — have now resorted to sneakily displaying full screen ads by essentially installing adware on the user’s phone during the regular apps installation. Without warning, notification, or permission, mind you.
It feels like in a way this was only a matter of time, but reading about this made me feel like it was 2001. Everyone was scared of spyware, it seemed to be everywhere, and calls to each family’s designated IT guy with, “Please come over and stop these ads from popping up constantly!” were commonplace.
I remember this well because I was usually that guy.
And now we’ve evidently moved right on to mobile devices. Luckily, as 9to5 Google points out, this comes right at the heels of a recent increase in Google’s Play Store app approval time. With any luck, the increased review time is to compile lists and begin cracking down on this kind of behavior in the future since it clearly violates the Play Store’s TOS by going around the user’s app permissions.
Luckily, Trends Micro shared the report with Google and these apps have been removed from the Play Store, but users should track carefully what apps they install going forward o they can correlate behavior like this with the source quickly.
Awareness of this kind of abuse of user trust is important for combating this. Here is the full list of offending apps.