A first look at mobile Ad-Blocking apps

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Online advertisers, third party trackers and analytics services are constantly tracking user activities as they access web services through their web browsers or mobile apps. While, web browser plugins disabling and blocking Ads (often associated tracking/analytics scripts), e.g. AdBlock Plus[3] have been well studied and are relatively well understood, an emerging new category of apps in the tracking mobile eco-system, referred as the mobile Ad-Blocking apps, received very little to no attention. With the recent significant increase of the number of mobile Ad-Blockers and the exponential growth of mobile Ad-Blocking apps' popularity, this paper aims to fill in the gap and study this new category of players in the mobile ad/tracking eco-system. This paper presents the first study of Android Ad-Blocking apps (or Ad-Blockers), analysing 97 Ad-Blocking mobile apps extracted from a corpus of more than 1.5 million Android apps on Google Play. While the main (declared) purpose of the apps is to block advertisements and mobile tracking services, our data analysis revealed the paradoxical presence of third-party tracking libraries and permissions to access sensitive resources on users' mobile devices, as well as the existence of embedded malware code within some mobile Ad-Blockers. We also analysed user reviews and found that even though a fraction of users raised concerns about the privacy and the actual performance of the mobile Ad-Blocking apps, most of the apps still attract a relatively high rating.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2017 IEEE 16th International Symposium on Network Computing and Applications
Subtitle of host publicationNCA 2017
Place of PublicationPiscataway, NJ
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781538614655
ISBN (Print)9781538614648
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2017
Event16th IEEE International Symposium on Network Computing and Applications, NCA 2017 - Cambridge, United States
Duration: 30 Oct 20171 Nov 2017


Conference16th IEEE International Symposium on Network Computing and Applications, NCA 2017
CountryUnited States

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