Are ads coming to the Android lock screen? Let’s hope not

android-phone.jpg

Pe3k — Shutterstock

There has been a rumor rampant on the interwebs that another new advertising platform for the Android operating system and Jack Wallen examines the rumor and concludes that (at least on the surface) it’s nothing but … a rumor.

I’m the paranoid type and online advertising never fails to arouse my suspicions. But I get it…businesses need to keep the lights on, and ads have always been the easiest (but not always the most effective) way to monetize just about anything online. However, the recent news about the Android lock screen has me more worried.

Let me explain.

There is a mobile advertising company named A look (a subsidiary of InMobi), which is an India-based mobile marketing platform. Glance has built a platform used to stream content to Android lock screen. This platform is already used on low-end devices (such as the Next Jio Phone) and serves as a dynamic lock screen that can display different types of content, such as wallpapers, news, and even videos.

It was recently reported (on several sites) that the content will also include advertisements.

shudder.

Before we continue, know that Glance has responded to numerous accusations that have flared up around the world. Their answers are therefore (extracted directly from their site):

Glance is not an advertising platform. Our primary goal is to create the best and safest lock screen experience possible, and our commitment to consumers is that you will never pick up your phone to see an advertisement on the lock screen itself, through the platform Glace.

While Glance’s core value proposition is consistent, the look and functionality will align with what our research shows consumers want in specific markets.

Since Glance seeks to add value every time you reach for the phone, consumers can customize what they see on the lock screen.

Glance’s monetization projects are driven by the space a consumer chooses to consume at any time. In other words, you could pay a subscription fee to have premium news displayed on your lock screen.

Inhale Exhale. According to the company itself, they have no intention of bringing advertising to the Android lock screen. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s beyond the realm of possibility. And while I take Glance at its word that it has no intention of serving ads to consumers, that doesn’t mean participants will follow the same rule. What happens if a user signs up for a certain content provider and that provider includes advertisements in their content? All of a sudden, those promises made by Glance no longer mean anything. It’s just the mobile way of things, where anything can be abused if the need or desire is there.

Why mobile advertising is far from innocent

Let’s stop here for a second, because you should already feel a little wary about such a platform. A lock screen that pushes content to your device that may (or may not) allow users to customize said content (in the case of Glance, it allows such customizations). This personalization (as I mentioned earlier) means that consumers could fall victim to untrusted third-party entities. Does this mean that Glance will monitor every third party that uses its platform? Otherwise, it could become a recipe for disaster.

Consider this: Over the past few years, several rogue advertising networks have been discovered capable of injecting viruses, malware, and ransomware onto a device. Now imagine that one of these nefarious ad networks manages to gain access to Glance’s platform and pushes malicious ads to every device that uses its lock screen. Suddenly you have a system capable of infecting hundreds of millions of mobile devices.

We don’t need or want that.

Beyond the dangers of malicious mobile advertising, consumers are already inundated with advertisements. And even if you could unlock your phone without ever having to interact with those ads, that’s still far from a good idea. These ads will consume system resources, use data, clutter your lock screen, and generally diminish the Android experience as a whole. And given that some Android devices already suffer from severe bloatware (where carriers will install their own inferior apps alongside superior pre-installed apps), adding an extra layer will only serve to drain even more resources. To make matters worse, you cannot uninstall or disable the bloatware. Imagine, then, that you have an entire overlay on your device with one purpose – to impose ads on you – and you can’t get rid of it.

Again, we don’t need or want this.

Before you freak out, Glance has yet to announce any plans for this to happen in the United States. Also, if Glance keeps its promise of being ad-free, that might not be a problem. But I’m not one to blindly trust when it comes to mobile devices. We all keep sensitive information on these devices, and it has become far too easy for malicious actors to gain access to this data. And given how prevalent (and dangerous) online mobile advertising can be on the Android platform, you should be concerned about the possibility of it happening.

I’m not saying it will happen…I’m saying it might happen.

When it comes to mobile advertising, the Android ecosystem is already somewhat fragile and prone to abuse. This is one of the main reasons why I always tell Android users to only install apps from the Google Play Store and only those that you absolutely need. The thought of receiving a device that includes a third-party lock screen that pushes third-party content to users sends shivers down my spine. I’m all for personalizing the content you see on your mobile device. And if Glance delivers on its promise of providing only useful content (and no ads), then the platform could have some upside. But the second a single ad is pushed onto Android’s lock screen, Glance’s platform becomes a breeding ground for malware and ransomware.

Please, Glance, if you are planning a global release of your platform and have other intentions than what is claimed on your site, don’t worry. If, however, your intentions are to deliver your product without a single Android lock screen ad, then you do, and I wish you success.

Comments are closed.