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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disclaimer: The content of this page reflects Pixalate’s opinions with respect to the factors that Pixalate believes can be useful to the digital media industry. Any proprietary data shared is grounded in Pixalate’s proprietary technology and analytics, which Pixalate is continuously evaluating and updating. Any references to outside sources should not be construed as endorsements. Pixalate’s opinions are just that - opinion, not facts or guarantees.
Per the MRC, “'Fraud' is not intended to represent fraud as defined in various laws, statutes and ordinances or as conventionally used in U.S. Court or other legal proceedings, but rather a custom definition strictly for advertising measurement purposes. Also per the MRC, “‘Invalid Traffic’ is defined generally as traffic that does not meet certain ad serving quality or completeness criteria, or otherwise does not represent legitimate ad traffic that should be included in measurement counts. Among the reasons why ad traffic may be deemed invalid is it is a result of non-human traffic (spiders, bots, etc.), or activity designed to produce fraudulent traffic.”