These Are The Concerns Slowly Killing Ad-Tech

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Black Mirror, recently bought by Netflix, is a hugely popular TV series that is a dark, twisted but spot-on portrayal of the possible ramifications of technology in the future. Advertisements for the show are ironically targeting ad block users, and some argue, are “intentionally creepy.” For better or worse, ad tech is an industry that somehow finds itself embroiled in controversy. Ad blocking was the controversy du jour, until recently when ad blocking rates have leveled out or even dropped. Ad tech’s explosion in recent years, due to the overwhelming user demand for free digital content, has caused the mighty backlash of ad blocking.

Ad tech executives are finally taking a breath after ad blocking has stabilized, yet another monster (or two) have been slowly eating away at the industry: ad fraud and transparency issues.

The International Advertising Bureau (IAB) estimates the economic cost of ad fraud to be around $ 8.2 billion annually. Most of this fraud comes from non-human traffic, which if eliminated would save more than $ 4 billion annually.

A lack of transparency

Today, the ad tech industry is best described as being like the mortgage industry during the subprime days. Advertisers are spending money for short term goals, while not paying attention to whether they’re getting real long term value.

A lack of transparency has enabled fraudsters to build companies based on sales teams, rather than actual technology. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Association of National Advertisers found that in 2015, between 3% to 37% of ad impressions were driven by bots, whereas in the previous study bot traffic ranged from 2% to 22%.

Legitimate ad tech businesses meet a set of proven criteria. They gain their competitive advantages from one of three areas: they own or enable unique supply, have unique data, or own the advertiser relationships.

On the other hand, fraudulent companies rely on arbitrage, and rent the traffic rather than owning it. Other cases involve compromising the user experience.

Common ad fraud threats

Modern ad fraud has evolved significantly from the days of click fraud where advertisers had to deal with fake clicks on their ad campaigns. Today, there’s a variety of technical exploits marketing professionals need to keep an eye on.

Pixel stuffing and ad stacking

Pixel stacking occurs when ads are placed into tiny 1×1 pixels, making them virtually impossible to see. Despite this, when the page is loaded, the session counts as an impression. Ad stacking is fairly similar in that it involves ads being placed over each other so that while only one is seen, impressions still register for both ads.

Ad injection

Ad injection comes in a few different forms. Ads can be placed on top of existing ads (causing ad stacking), or they can completely replace existing ads. The most common form of ad injection is a fake warning telling the user their computer is infected with a virus or that their PC performance isn’t up to par.

Domain laundering

This is when fraudsters take a low quality domain and make it look like it’s actually a more reputable publisher. When advertisers recognize the name, they’ll pay a premium. In addition to costing advertisers money, this threat also potentially leads to questionable ad placements which can harm the advertiser’s reputation.

Best practices for prevention

Even though automated systems are rapidly evolving to combat ad fraud, that doesn’t mean you can sit back and let technology solve the problem. Below are a few best practices you can follow to ensure ad fraud doesn’t harm your company.

  • Request transparency from your publishers: Simply asking your publishers where their traffic originates from can significantly help to reduce fraud. If they aren’t straightforward with you, then that’s a potential red flag.
  • Time your ads: Since bot fraud is more active during specific times of the day, timing your ads properly can help to avoid the bulk of fraudulent traffic.
  • Constantly assess your traffic: Always review your campaigns in order to monitor where the best clicks come from, and adjust your campaigns accordingly.
  • View your site in incognito mode: This allows you to view how your website is displayed to the general public. You’ll also be able to see any sites which have stolen your domain, or ads which may have been injected.

In addition to the previously mentioned action items, it’s also best to consider going with networks with a brand safety department which keeps media, programmatic and direct publishers clean and safe.

Typically these networks have the technology to detect, monitor, and exclude invalid traffic. Additionally reputable companies have different categories for brand safety (adult and nudity, file sharing and illegal content, etc).

An ongoing battle

In order to make sense of the continuously evolving landscape, it’s crucial to keep an eye out on industry trends so you always have a handle on where things are headed.

While it’s impossible to fully eliminate ad fraud, the damages can be minimized by following industry best practices while also trusting your instincts when it comes to dealing with publishers and other entities.

The post These Are The Concerns Slowly Killing Ad-Tech appeared first on ReadWrite.


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AmazonBasics power banks recalled over fire hazard concerns

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AmazonBasics is great choice for everything from HDMI cables to coathangers and a whole lot more. Apparently "whole lot more" also extends to unintentional fire sources. The shopping juggernaut has recalled a half-dozen power banks sold between Decem…
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Trump Prohibits Broadcom’s Takeover of Qualcomm Due to National Security Concerns

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United States President Donald Trump this afternoon issued an executive order blocking Broadcom from acquiring Qualcomm in a deal that would have been worth more than $117 billion, reports Bloomberg.

The president’s order came following a recommendation from the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) in the United States, despite Broadcom’s efforts to save the proposed transaction over the course of the last few weeks. U.S officials believed Broadcom’s acquisition of Qualcomm, which has been under investigation by the CFIUS, could threaten national security.

The CFIUS previously said that a Broadcom acquisition of Qualcomm could undermine Qualcomm’s leadership in 5G wireless technology, allowing China’s Huawei to become the dominant 5G provider in the world. Broadcom, a Singapore-based company, promised not to sell Qualcomm 5G assets, announced plans to redomicile in the United States, and pledged to invest billions in the United States, but that did not ease regulators’ concerns.

“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that Broadcom Ltd.” by acquiring Qualcomm “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump said in the order released Monday evening in Washington.

Trump also said that “any substantially equivalent merger, acquisition, or takeover, whether effected directly or indirectly, is also prohibited.”

Broadcom first made an offer to acquire Qualcomm for $70 per share in cash and stock back in November of 2017, marking the proposal of the “largest technology acquisition ever, which Qualcomm turned down.

Qualcomm also turned down subsequent offers of $121 billion and $117 billion, and had not agreed to the acquisition at the time that it was blocked by Trump. Broadcom had been attempting to add merger-friendly individuals to Qualcomm’s board, but today’s order makes it clear that no merger or acquisition between the two companies will be allowed.

Broadcom may intend to fight the order as earlier today, the company said in a statement that U.S. national security concerns are not a risk as “Broadcom never plans to acquire Qualcomm before it completes redomiciliation.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Clear your mind of privacy concerns with totally zen VPN [Deals]

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Life on the internet means feeling stress about having your data or identity stolen. That’s why signing on with a virtual private network (VPN) is key for online peace of mind. So where do you start? ZenMate is a worry-free way to protect your online life, eliminate restrictions and stay anonymous. With strong encryption, you […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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MoviePass update on iOS ‘removes unused location capabilities’ following privacy concerns

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Earlier this week, Mitch Lowe, CEO of the popular all-you-can-eat movie subscription service MoviePass, made headlines for bragging about how the app can track the location of its users. Shortly after that comment, MoviePass issued a statement clarifying its actions, and now the iOS app has been updated to remove the features…



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Apple makes Chinese transfer of iCloud data official, raising privacy concerns

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As planned, Apple on Wednesday transferred control of its Chinese iCloud data to a local firm, Guizhou-Cloud Big Data. The move is necessary to comply with local laws, but has drawn criticism for exposing customers to the authoritarian Chinese government.
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Facebook VPN ‘Onavo Protect’ Collects User Data Spawning Privacy Concerns

Internet privacy is a big concern for many, but it’s not just governments and spy agencies that are snooping on the things you’re doing online.

Technology companies are also tracking website users in a bid to improve their products and services. And they’re constantly becoming more powerful.

Social media giant Facebook is just one example of a company that keeps tabs on your internet activities. And it’s just released its own virtual private network (VPN) service, which is called Protect.

Facebook hasn’t been hugely vocal about the service, but according to TechCrunch, it’s now available as a free download iOS users.

Essentially, Facebook uses the service to gather data from its users. It will then analyse this information in a bid to “improve Facebook products and services”.

In 2013, Facebook acquired Onavo, which developed the popular VPN and data security service. However, it’s now available as part of the Facebook app.

You’re able to access the feature by clicking onto the navigation menu and choosing “Protect”. When you do this, you’re sent sent to the Onavo app.

As well as using the app to improve its products and user interface, Facebook has also implemented it to give users peace of mind when it comes to security.

Currently, it’s unknown how many users have actually come across the feature within the Facebook iOS app, or if the company plans to unveil other security features.

This isn’t the first time that the feature has popped up, though. In 2016, UK-based users discovered Protect in the Facebook app, although it’s unclear if the app will be launched overseas officially.

Another reason why Facebook may be doing this is to market the service. Users are being encouraged to download it from the App Store.

In the App Store description of the app, the company writes: Onavo Protect helps keep you and your data safe when you browse and share information on the web.

“This powerful app helps keep you safe by understanding when you visit potentially malicious or harmful websites and giving you a warning.”

“It also helps keep your details secure when you login to websites or enter personal information such as bank accounts and credit card numbers.”

Onavo has since confirmed that the service has come to  iOS users in America. Speaking to TechCrunch, product manager Erez Naveh said: “We recently began letting people in the U.S. access Onavo Protect from the Facebook app on their iOS devices.”

“Like other VPNs, it acts as a secure connection to protect people from potentially harmful sites. The app may collect your mobile data traffic to help us recognize tactics that bad actors use.”

“Over time, this helps the tool work better for you and others. We let people know about this activity and other ways that Onavo uses and analyses data before they download it.”

Learn More: Why VPNs Are Incredibly Important for iOS 11 Users

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EU to scrutinize Apple’s Shazam takeover on competition concerns from member states

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The European Commission on Tuesday said it will look into whether Apple’s proposed Shazam acquisition meets competition standards, following a request by several EU countries.
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How a Simple App About a Frog Raised Chinese App Store Concerns

The Chinese iOS App Store is host to a popular app about a traveling frog. But, as innocent as it may sound, the app is raising some alarming questions about Apple’s App Store policies in China.

What Is Tabi Kaeru?

The app in question is actually a Japanese app called Tabi Kaeru, or “Travel Frog.” But while the app may have originated in Japan, Tabi Kaeru has become an unexpected viral hit in China. It’s so well-known, in fact, that the New York Times profiled the app’s rise to popularity earlier this month.

Tabi Kaeru’s premise is a simple one. It features a digital frog that requires regular care and feeding from its “owner,” but the main draw of the app is the frog’s random traveling. Periodically, the frog will leave on trips and bring back virtual souvenirs for users.

As the Times points out, the app appears to have struck a chord with Chinese mobile gamers. Its appeal lies in its ease of use, as well as its offering of digital companionship and vicarious adventuring. Tabi Kaeru has risen to the top of the App Store game category in China, and players regularly discuss the app on social media and post pictures of their frogs’ travels.

But what could have been an app success story is being undermined by something else entirely. The app’s sheer popularity is raising concerns that Apple doesn’t pay as much attention to its Chinese App Store as it does to platforms in other countries.

What’s the Problem?

While Apple is well-known for its strict app vetting, there’s evidence that this process isn’t nearly as stringent in China. According to research conducted by marketing firm China Channel, more than 30 knockoff apps mimicking Tabi Kaeru have been accepted into the Chinese App Store.

Worse still, the most successful fake app seems to have made a ton of money for its creators, TechCrunch reported. The fake app was accepted on Jan. 22 as a paid download, and a combination of factors allowed it to surge to the top of the paid-app category for about 10 hours before it was removed.

After Apple’s 30 percent cut, the fake app has probably made its developers around $ 100,000. That’s concerning since the authentic Tabi Kaeru is free.

The implication is that there’s a gap in Apple’s vetting process in China. This may be due to a lack of cultural understanding among U.S.-based App Store reviewers, but some developers have even speculated that the company is outsourcing its China App Store vetting process to a local third-party.

Of course, this is problematic for a number of reasons, but particularly because China is the world’s largest smartphone market — and it’s still rapidly growing. It’s also Apple’s single largest market for app revenue.

What Apple Is Doing About It

Shortly after TechCrunch broke the story, Apple reportedly removed all Tabi Kaeru knockoffs from the App Store.

The company didn’t respond to TechCrunch’s questions about the vetting process but confirmed that it had removed the apps and referred the publication to its App Store Review Guidelines — which prohibit plagiarization.

But the important question that remains is whether the Tabi Kaeru incident was a one-off issue, or if it just revealed a more widespread problem. Either way, for the sake of users and developers everywhere, Apple would do well to better police its own ecosystem — and hopefully, this simple app about a traveling frog has served as a wakeup call.

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Essential announces plans to skip 8.0 Oreo release in favor of 8.1, citing stability concerns

Essential—the phone company led by Android co-founder Andy Rubin—has had some difficulty in getting a stable 8.0 Oreo update released. After three beta releases, the company is not quite satisfied that the update is ready for general release. Because of these protracted issues, Essential has announced plans to skip the 8.0 release entirely in favor of 8.1, which will “push the public release back a couple weeks,” according to the company.

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Essential announces plans to skip 8.0 Oreo release in favor of 8.1, citing stability concerns was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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