Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Georgia Tech discovers how mobile ads leak personal data

24.02.2016

The personal information of millions of smartphone users is at risk due to in-app advertising that can leak potentially sensitive user information between ad networks and mobile app developers, according to a new study by the School of Computer Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Caption

Ad networks deliver personalized ads inside mobile apps, which can leak sensitive profile information about the user to the mobile app developer.

Credit: Georgia Tech

Results will be presented Tuesday, Feb. 23 at the 2016 Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS '16) in San Diego, Calif., by researchers Wei Meng, Ren Ding, Simon Chung, and Steven Han under the direction of Professor Wenke Lee.

The study examined more than 200 participants who used a custom-built app for Android-based smartphones, which account for 52 percent of the U.S. smartphone market according to comScore's April 2015 report. Georgia Tech researchers reviewed the accuracy of personalized ads that were served to test subjects from the Google AdNetwork based upon their personal interests and demographic profiles; and secondly, examined how much a mobile app creator could uncover about users because of the personalized ads served to them.

Researchers found that 73 percent of ad impressions for 92 percent of users are correctly aligned with their demographic profiles. Researchers also found that, based on ads shown, a mobile app developer could learn a user's:

gender with 75 percent accuracy,

parental status with 66 percent accuracy,

age group with 54 percent accuracy, and

could also predict income, political affiliation, marital status, with higher accuracy than random guesses.

Some personal information is deemed so sensitive that Google explicitly states those factors are not used for personalization, yet the study found that app developers still can discover this information due to leakage between ad networks and app developers.

"Free smart phone apps are not really free," says Wei Meng, lead researcher and a graduate student studying computer science. "Apps - especially malicious apps - can be used to collect potentially sensitive information about someone simply by hosting ads in the app and observing what is received by a user. Mobile, personalized in-app ads absolutely present a new privacy threat."

How it Works

-Mobile app developers choose to accept in-app ads inside their app.

-Ad networks pay a fee to app developers in order to show ads and monitor user activity - collecting app lists, device models, geo-locations, etc. This aggregate information is made available to help advertisers choose where to place ads.

-Advertisers instruct an ad network to show their ads based on topic targeting (such as "Autos & Vehicles"), interest targeting (such as user usage patterns and previous click thrus), and demographic targeting (such as estimated age range).

-The ad network displays ads to appropriate mobile app users and receives payment from advertisers for successful views or click thrus by the recipient of the ad.

-In-app ads are displayed unencrypted as part of the app's graphical user interface. Therefore, mobile app developers can access the targeted ad content delivered to its own app users and then reverse engineer that data to construct a profile of their app customer.

Unlike advertising on a website page, where personalized ad content is protected from publishers and other third parties by the Same Origin Policy, there is no isolation of personalized ad content from the mobile app developer.

For the smartphone dependent population - the 7 percent of largely low-income Americans, defined by Pew Internet ("U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015"), who have neither traditional broadband at home nor any other online alternative - their personal information may be particularly at risk.

"People use their smartphones now for online dating, banking, and social media every day," said Wenke Lee, professor of computer science and co-director of the Institute for Information Security & Privacy at Georgia Tech. "Mobile devices are intimate to users, so safeguarding personal information from malicious parties is more important than ever."

The study acknowledges that the online advertising industry is taking steps to protect users' information by improving the HTTPS protocol, but researchers believe the threat to user privacy is greater than HTTPS protection can provide under a mobile scenario.

The researchers contacted Google AdNetworks about their finding.

Media Contact

Tara La Bouff
tlabouff@cc.gatech.edu
602-770-0264

 @GeorgiaTech

http://www.gatech.edu 

Tara La Bouff | EurekAlert!

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht The TU Ilmenau develops tomorrow’s chip technology today
27.04.2017 | Technische Universität Ilmenau

nachricht Five developments for improved data exploitation
19.04.2017 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>