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Push advertising: notification ads, unwanted shortcuts, browsers redirected.

I'm posting this because we are getting many threads, in different forums, from people who are finding advertisments in the notification area of their phone or related problems. The information here is collected from a number of these threads - thanks to all who have contributed.

If you start seeing advertisments in the notification area of your phone, this means that you have installed an application which uses "Push Notification" advertising. "Airpush" was the original such service, and so this is commonly referred to as "Airpush spam". As well as notification ads, this method has been used to place shortcuts on users' homescreens or change browser settings, e.g. redirect homepages.

In addition to being more intrusive than in-app advertising, it is also insidious because it does not tell you which app is pushing the advert. People have reported that there is usually a delay between the app being installed and the adverts first appearing, making identification of the culprit more difficult.

If you have one of these problems, there are a number of apps that will identify which of your installed applications is responsible, such as Addons Detector, Airpush Detector, Lookout Ad Network Detector. Notification History could be useful, but see this caveat about at least the free version.

Sometimes a new ad network appears, which the ad network detector apps are not yet aware of and so cannot detect. If you find such adverts and none of the above apps can identify the source, you could try the method described in this post.

When you have identified the culprit, it is up to you what you do. You may choose to live with it, though if so I doubt you'll have read this far ;). People lucky enough to have Android 4.1 Jelly Bean should be able to disable such advertising directly. Otherwise you will need to be rooted to block airpush ads using a blocking app (*), or firewalling if the app does not otherwise require internet access. The commonest solution is to uninstall the offending app.

If you feel that this practice is offensive, you may wish to give feedback to the dev: a one-star review citing push advertising as the reason will both both do this and warn other users.

(*) Previously suggested Airblocker here, but that app has recently added Airpush itself, so would be self-defeating now! :(

 

Related:

#1 Hadron, Jul 2, 2012
Hi,
some companies use push notification as a way to get users to open the app more often, by this the apps rates go up in the play store. It is getting quite popular, my app was offered using push ad notifications several times but we refused.

Seems like app users stopped pressing ads in free apps and the developers' income is dropping - causing them to look for new (and awful) methods of advertising..
 
#2 barwink, Jul 11, 2012
I've been using AirPush Detector for quite some time so I can check new apps when I install them. I also use a custom host file (AdAway, which uses the same custom host file that Ive been using on my PC for many years) to block advertisements and unwanted nasties in the browser. My question though is does the custom host file alone stop the ads from appearing in the notification area?

Knock on wood, I've not had any of these ads appear up there, but I have found quite a few apps that used AirPush. Perhaps I caught them quick enough so that they didn't have time to push the ads.

Edit: Would also like to add that I have a concern with AirPush Detector. Shouldn't this app be updated frequently so it can detect new ads? It hasn't been updated since last November.
 
#3 Petrah, Jul 11, 2012
This company is a BIG spammer. I have been having problem with them.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=LeTang,+Inc.&hl=en
 
#4 rkkeller, Jul 18, 2012
There is hope .... that Google Play Store will banish AirPush :)

http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/01/google-play-dev-policy-update/

Harry
 
#5 Harry2, Aug 1, 2012
Google
 
#6 jefboyardee, Aug 1, 2012
Another option to find AirPush might be the app Notification History :)

I'd not permanently install the app because of its permissions.

But if I'd get AirPush spam, I'd install the app and when it'd have found the AirPush app, I'd uninstall the culprit app and Notification History ;)

Here is a review ...
Notification History

Harry
 
#7 Harry2, Aug 3, 2012
And hopefully the AdAway type apps that strip out advertising.

 
#8 mills2533, Aug 3, 2012
It's true what you say Hadron, but i think Google's new policy will end that.
 
#9 lrusso85, Aug 8, 2012
Sorry for the bump, but what exactly do you think Google means by "impersonating system notifications"? Like is saying something along the lines of "Hey, this app is still here and we're having some sort of event/updated something, why not play it now?" in the notification bar too far? What about the Facebook app, and how it shows up in the notification bar when someone updates their status? I'm just a bit curious, as it doesn't seem very clear to me what Google's standing is here on what counts as abuse, and what is appropriate usage.
 
#10 Gravity Games, Aug 22, 2012
You can disable the notifications for facebook. These can't be disabled. Big difference.
 
#11 justaneonlol, Aug 28, 2012
Agreed. A facebook status notification seems to me to be analogous to a new message notification.
 
#12 Hadron, Aug 29, 2012
I understand people hating on AirPush, but compared to banner advertising services lie Mobclix, the ECPMs are much higher.

I was get 58 c ecpm on Mobclix and I get $4 ecpm on Airpush, developers need to make money somehow.
 
#13 sugo55, Sep 4, 2012
Perhaps you could make more money by stealing than by working honestly, but that isn't going to make a very effective argument in the minds of those from whom you would be stealing. Stealing would still be wrong.

I'm not going to claim that such methods as Airpush are exactly analogous to stealing, but they are certainly an intrusion that a great many of us find unacceptable.

I accept the concept of apps that are supported by advertising within the app itself. This, I consider legitimate. But when an app pushes advertising that intrudes upon the use of a device outside of the app itself, this is simply not acceptable. Every item I encounter such an app on Google Play, I report it to Google as malware, and about as often as not, apps that I thus report are getting pulled.

Apparently, Google agrees with me on this point, and their newly-revised standards seem to reflect this agreement.
 
#14 Bob Blaylock, Sep 4, 2012
Or just develop an app that is worth paying for.
 
#15 justaneonlol, Sep 4, 2012
Not sure if this app was mentioned, but its good for recognizing not just am ad-push, but detects the Ad Network responsibke for the unwanted ads. The app tells you where your personal data gets sent ( to their databases unencrypted).

Click HERE: To go to the AF discussion and the link to the app in Google Play!
 
#16 Rico ANDROID, Sep 10, 2012
Can you tell me the app name? TapaTalk is doing the old "interpret link as some random thread" thing for me today :(
 
#17 Hadron, Sep 10, 2012
Hey Hadron! Thanks for this folder discussion! Yes, its called Lookout Ad Network Detector. If you get a chance go to that AF discussion in the link in my prior post. Theres a breakdown of what this app does. Even provide urls for opting-out of such ads (if you want to keep using the app thats currently pushing ads)

I was shocked that some apps ties your info to a server where they can change your ringtone to an ad! Instead of hearing the basic ring when we call someone, some apps tied to networks can change the ringing we hear to an ad pitch until the person we are calling picks up! An the person we are calling may never know this is going on.
 
#18 Rico ANDROID, Sep 10, 2012
Hi Rico,

Oooh, that ringtone thing sounds nasty!

The first post has a link to Lookout Ad Network Detector. I'll read the discussion when I have a chance. :)
 
#19 Hadron, Sep 10, 2012
Wow, Hadron you are absolutely right! Why didnt I come to this lively discussion sooner. You have done some thorough and goo research with great references! I knew adNetwork had to have been discussed somewhere on AF! Sorry f our duplicatingbthe topic.


You are right! Its a very nasty way to backdoor their ads on our devics and we may never know it...i know, I.never call my own number, and would never realize my ringtone was hijacked voice ads!
 
#20 Rico ANDROID, Sep 10, 2012
I've followed the link now (no longer on TT). AdMob may collect more than I'd like (well, anything at all is more than I like ;)) but it isn't a push advertising network.

Where did you find the detail of what the ringtone thing does? Not having such an app, Lookout wouldn't let me read the detailed description. I could imagine an app that would change what you hear as the ringing tone (though I'd much rather not!), but one that changed what other people hear sounds unlikely (and suicidal for a network to collude in something like that).
 
#21 Hadron, Sep 10, 2012
There seens to be another advertise company than the AirPush company that is using this ringtone thing.
AirPush, on its web site, offers its customer this kind of push advertising:

What type of ad units are available?
The ad notification action can vary depending on the Campaign Type you choose within the advertiser portal. The current campaign types and associated post-click actions are as follows:

Airpush App: launches the Android Market app preloaded to a market URL you specify.
Mobile Site: launches the mobile browser preloaded to a URL you specify.
Click to Call: launches the phone's dialer preloaded with a phone number you specify.
Click to SMS: launches the phone's SMS composer with a phone number and body you specify.


Source:
http://m.airpush.com/advertisers
FAQ ... What type of ad units are available?

Harry
 
#22 Harry2, Sep 10, 2012
I will have to look back on the location, but I had Lookout report 6apps, when I drilled down to the details by Ad Network , one of them showed the ringtone takeover. The thing to remember too, is the app says these ad servers can push a voice ad over the dialed ringtone any time, not that it will be instantly taking over the ringtone the moment one of the apps are installed. And you are right, its a "yucker".

The link in my msg above goes to an Android Forum discussion andni listed some apps I removed as a result of Ad Network report from the Lookout app
 
#23 Rico ANDROID, Sep 10, 2012
Hadron: youll have to installl Ad Nwork and run the scan. Then look at the last summary item on the list. Currently my scan shows that I no longer have an app installed that can take over the ringing sound a caller hears when calling me. Where the results = 0 apps, that is a good thing.

Run it on your device and let us know your results. I will do a screenshot later and post it here.
 
#24 Rico ANDROID, Sep 10, 2012
I tell yah, this airpush /ad network PLUS piggybacking onto a ringtone is real "hairy situation! Right, Harry! :eek:


I mean, if an ad networks gonna hijack and "rape" my Streak (dont worry T.E.D.IV, I wont let it happ'n to you....)..... TED's the name of my device if you guys didnt know....
....now where was I?....oh! Yeah, if these ad mungers gonna molest My t.e.d. At least replace my ringtone with "BARRY" or "LUTHER"...
 
#25 Rico ANDROID, Sep 10, 2012