"We Can't Live Without Them!" App Developers' Adoption of Ad Networks and Their Considerations of Consumer Risks


Abraham H. Mhaidli, Yixin Zou, and Florian Schaub, University of Michigan School of Information


Mobile ads pose privacy and security risks to consumers, including behavior tracking, malware, and inappropriate or biased content. Advertising networks connect mobile app developers with advertisers, enabling in-app advertising. We conducted a mixed-methods study with mobile app developers, consisting of survey and semi-structured interviews, to better understand why and how they partner with advertising networks, and their considerations of consumer risks in those interactions. Our findings focus on app developers who work independently or in smaller companies. We find that developers use advertising because they see it as the only viable way to monetize their app. Developers mostly choose an advertising network based on perceptions of which ad networks are popular rather than a holistic assessment. Despite claims of optimizing for profitability or consumer well-being, developers largely keep ad networks' default configurations. Developers are resigned to ad-related consumer risks, seeing themselves as unable to and not responsible for addressing the risks. Based on our findings, we discuss recommendations for mitigating consumer risks of mobile advertising.

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@inproceedings {238289,
author = {Abraham H. Mhaidli and Yixin Zou and Florian Schaub},
title = {"We Can{\textquoteright}t Live Without {Them!}" App Developers{\textquoteright} Adoption of Ad Networks and Their Considerations of Consumer Risks},
booktitle = {Fifteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2019)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-939133-05-2},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
pages = {225--244},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/soups2019/presentation/mhaidli},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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