New revelations have been made, which claim thousands of iOS and Android apps are secretly running ads in the background. Forensiq, a firm that tracks fraud in online advertising, released their report of a 10-day study, revealing one per cent of all devices observed in the US ran at least one app committing ad fraud. In Europe and Asia, two to three percent of devices encountered fake ads.

Forensiq found over 5,000 apps that display the hidden ads on both Apple and Android devices. Advertisers have been estimated at paying about US$850 million for these ads each year, according to the report. Even crazier, apps with the highest rate of ad fraud were found to burn through 2 gigabytes of data per day on a single device.


Forensiq discovered that some apps were calling ads at such a high frequency that the intended audience couldn’t possibly be real humans. Forensiq said the apps were hitting these numbers by showing as many as five ads in the background for every ad visible to users. Ads were even shown to be called after some of the apps had been closed.

“It’s not Angry Birds or Candy Crush, but these are apps that people play and enjoy and some real effort went into developing,” said David Sendroff, Forensiq’s founder and chief executive.

The report by Forensiq doesn’t name any names. But, one culprit was told to Bloomberg, a breastfeeding app for Apple devices published by American Baby magazine by app developer Sevenlogics; the invisible ads tout Olive Garden, Amazon, and IBM.

Forensiq showed some Android apps are running code that produces a steady stream of hidden ads from companies like Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and Mercedes Benz. Any performance issues expressed by users are almost certainly caused by the extra load resulting from the apps’ secondary functions, said Forensiq.

Secretly running ads is a violation of the rules governing all apps available in Apple and Android app stores. The best way to try identifying such apps would be to monitor bandwidth usage over time, said Sendroff.

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