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Saturday, December 18, 2010, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

Android, iOS apps skirt privacy policy to share user data with advertisers [u]


Ads pop the web

In 2001, Apple jumped on the ad-supported software bandwagon by including web-like banner ads within Sherlock, its specialized search engine app for the web. That experiment didn't last long, and the company has since shunned ad banners within its desktop software.

Update: A reader notes: "Sherlock was a parallel searching technology, back in the days before Google you had to search more than one engine to get what you were looking for. With Sherlock you got all your results in one place without even opening your web browser.

"This of course would reduce the number of page views a search engine would get so Apple implemented that if you clicked on a result from a certain search engine, you would be delivered a banner ad from that search engine. If they hadn't most search engines would of blocked Apple from using their sites as they would get no advertising revenue and be unable to survive.

"Apple had their own search channel for searching the Apple.com website and Apple made up their own ads for it, but if you used Sherlock to search your hard drive (Sherlock was the find application for Mac OS 8.5 thru to Mac OS 9.2.2) there was no banner advertising or even a empty box, no ads were displayed on local search results."


Microsoft began bundling Alexa website tracking software on all new Windows PCs and in 2005 opened talks to acquire Claria, the vendor behind Gator, the web's most notorious adware trojan horse. While negotiating the acquisition, Microsoft silently removed Claria's products from the blacklist of malware that Windows AntiSpyware had previously recommended for quarantine.

However, a backlash against adware and spyware tactics began to gain momentum after a series of media reports brought public attention to web cookies and their ability to allow advertising companies to remotely track their activities on the web. Microsoft subsequently broke off talks with Claria as a new kind of subtle, contextual advertising, popularized by Google, fell into fashion as the public largely rejected the idea of being tracked by advertisers.

The controversial subject of user privacy continues to receive attention, with the White House issuing a memoranda this summer that "calls for transparent privacy policies, individual notice, and a careful analysis of the privacy implications whenever Federal agencies choose to use third-party technologies to engage with the public."

However, particularly since Google's acquisition of web cookie-centric ad vendor DoubleClick in 2008, online and mobile advertising has trended back towards user tracking rather than the kind of contextual relevancy Google pursued through most of the previous decade. Advertisers want to reach specific audiences, and the only way to do that effectively involves being able to track users by their demographic identity and by following their activities and location.

history of adware


On page 3 of 3: iOS 4 attacked for limiting adware creep, Google fights for mobile adware