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T-Mobile caught in crossfire of injected ad war with Flash Networks

Maria Korolov | Aug. 4, 2015
LAS VEGAS - An ongoing conflict between website owners and ad injectors who place unwanted ads on those websites has just flared up into full-blown war, with advertisers and carriers caught in the crossfire.

Ads injected into web sites

LAS VEGAS - An ongoing conflict between website owners and ad injectors who place unwanted ads on those websites has just flared up into full-blown war, with advertisers and carriers caught in the crossfire.

Take, for example, T-Mobile, which is proudly named as a customer by Flash Networks, a company that brags about creating "new monetization opportunities" for mobile operators when it "inserts the most relevant engagement display into the selected webpages."

This seems to have been a surprise to T-Mobile. Cynthia Lee, the company's senior digital media manager, adamantly denied that T-Mobile was using Flash Networks to inject ads into webpages it was serving up to mobile customers.

"It's completely against our strategy," she said. "Consumer experiences and customer privacy are at the top of our list and a pillar of how we execute our media."

T-Mobile does buy advertising in an automated, programmatic way, she said, and may have indirectly and accidentally bought an ad on this network.

"As a company, we're trying to improve on that," she said. "We're working on it with the industry."

In addition to T-Mobile, Flash Networks also lists Orange, Vodafone, Tlecom Italia, SwissCom, Telekom Austria, TurkCell, nTelos Wireless and Bharti Airtel as customers.

At least one of those companies is an actual customer -- an Indian blogger discovered that his Internet Service Provider, Bharti Airtel, was inserting unwanted JavaScript into his website. He posted screenshots on GitHub, and got a cease-and-desist letter from Flash Networks in response.

Bharti Airtel issued a statement that they had no relation to the cease-and-desist notice -- and said that the injected code was only there "to help customers understand their data consumption in terms of volume of data used."

They did not explain why this required injecting Javascript into other companies' webpages.

Ken Ruck, Flash Networks' vice president of monetization agreed to an interview, then canceled, and the company sent a canned statement instead, saying that they do not discuss customers with the media.

The Flash Networks Layer 8 platform allows operators "to monetize a never before seen scale of new monetization opportunities," the company said in its statement.

"The Layer8 solution is not malware and not intended for ad injection," said a spokesperson, who then went on to add that the company's "injected code... can be used to offer ringtones, ebooks, and local offers."

Up to 30 percent of Web users are currently seeing extra ads on websites, injected by their mobile carriers, Internet providers, WiFi hotspots, malware, toolbars, and browser extensions, according to new research from Namogoo Technologies. This is up from 5 percent during the first nine months of 2014, when Google ran its own analysis.

 

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