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Dangers of delisted apps: Ad Fraud, Brand Safety, and Privacy Compliance

Amit Shetty
Mar 24, 2023 3:00:00 PM

Pixalate recently released its “Q4 2022 Delisted Mobile Apps Report” and “Q4 2022 Delisted CTV Apps Report” which detail information around apps that have been delisted from the Apple, Google, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV app stores. Here we are providing our views on the privacy, brand safety and ad fraud implications of these apps.

Advertisers and ad platforms need to be vigilant about the ad fraud, brand safety and privacy implications of delisted apps. With the rise of ad fraud and privacy concerns, it's crucial for the ad tech industry to take a proactive approach to combat these issues and protect user data, including considering blocking ad traffic from all delisted apps.

The following data points from our delisted apps reports help contextualize the scale of the problem on both Mobile and CTV platforms:

  • 1.4MM+ apps delisted across Google and Apple app stores in 2022
  • 3.7k+ apps delisted across Roku and Amazon Fire TV in 2022
  • $45MM+ estimated programmatic ad spend on delisted mobile apps in 2022
  • $8.9MM+ estimated programmatic ad spend on delisted CTV apps in 2022


Delisting Apps

The delisting of apps (both mobile and CTV) is a common practice among app stores to remove low-quality, non-compliant, or malicious apps. Google, Apple, Roku, and Amazon regularly remove apps from their app stores. While some apps are delisted for benign reasons, others are removed as a result of more nefarious behaviors, including ad fraud and non-compliance with privacy regulations.

However, the removal (or delisting) of these apps from app stores doesn't necessarily mean that they disappear from user devices. In fact, they can still remain on user devices and continue to run ads, leading to brand safety, malware, and ad fraud concerns.

Ad Fraud, Malware & Brand Safety

Pixalate has examined the relationship between delisted apps and IVT, and we have seen IVT numbers range from being similar to non-delisted apps to some truly abnormal levels (>75% IVT in some cases). In fact, there is a history of many of these apps being removed because they were sources of malware and ad fraud schemes. For example, in Nov. 2021, Google removed 151 apps for fraudulent behavior before delisting another 16 (with over 20 million downloads) in October 2022. Malware is also a problem that resulted in apps being delisted - some examples here and here.

Given that simply delisting the apps does not result in stopping ad traffic, advertisers have to be cautious about the ad fraud and malware implications of the traffic they are working with. Being associated with apps that may contain malware and ad fraud, is a brand safety risk, and we find that most clients prefer to not take on this risk, and instead block traffic from all delisted apps.


Pixalate’s analysis of delisted apps found that 38%+ of delisted Roku apps had no detected privacy policy URL vs. 12% on Fire TV in Q4 2022.

Also in Q4 2022, Pixalate found 7.6% of the delisted Mobile apps had no privacy policy URL detected and that 93.5% of delisted apps with ads transmitted end-user location in ad bid stream, posing a potential opportunity for unchecked consumer tracking.

Based on these data points, it is clear that delisted apps pose a significant risk from a privacy compliance perspective. As a result, many clients prefer to avoid any interaction with traffic coming from these apps altogether.


At Pixalate, we understand the importance of protecting our clients' brands and ensuring their ad traffic is guarded against ad fraud, brand safety and privacy-compliant. To help our clients achieve these goals, we offer a range of tools and solutions, including pre-bid block lists that enable them to block all traffic from delisted apps on a regular basis.

In addition, the Media Rating Terminal, which is a comprehensive data platform that helps clients identify and work with apps that meet their brand safety and privacy criteria. This enables our clients to make informed decisions and while minimizing the risks associated with delisted apps.

For more insights about delisted apps, download the Mobile Delisted Apps Q4 2022 report, and the CTV Delisted Apps Q4 2022 report.


The content of this blog post, and referenced reports reflect Pixalate's opinions with respect to factors that Pixalate believes can be useful to the digital media industry. Pixalate’s opinions are just that, opinions, which means that they are neither facts nor guarantees. Pixalate is sharing this data not to impugn the standing or reputation of any entity, person or app, but, instead, to report findings and trends pertaining to programmatic advertising activity across mobile apps in the time period studied.

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