Who is Behind Those Ads That Take Over Your Phone?


Ads that take over your phone are super-annoying. One moment you’re enjoying your phone, clicking on links to interesting articles and web sites. The next moment your phone is being taken over by an aggressive ad. If you’re lucky it’s just a dumb sweepstakes – if you’re unlucky it might be a malware site that hijacks your phone. Why are website publishers allowing such aggressive advertisers? Can’t they be a little more careful about who they allow to advertise on their sites? I used to think the web was dominated by unscrupulous publishers. Then I discovered the truth about where these horrible ads that take over your phone are coming from.

If you’re like me, when this has happened to you, you’ve cursed the sketchy website you just clicked on.  Who wants to read an article if it’s re-directing you to a sweepstakes you can’t close or a malware site? If you click on a link and experience an ad that takes over your phone you’ll probably avoid links from it in the future.  Why would you want to return to that website again if you can’t read the article in the first place?

What I discovered is that it’s not the website’s fault. The publisher isn’t allowing sketchy ads, or plugging his site into a an ad network that allows that kind of stuff. No. It’s not the publisher doing it. It’s not the publisher’s fault. The ads aren’t coming from the website, nor are they coming from ad networks the publisher is using to monetize his site. The ads that take over your phone are coming from somewhere else.

The Observation

Let me explain what I observed and what I concluded from it. My conclusions may not be correct, but I’m being precise here when I explain what I experienced, what led me to conclude the source of these hijack ads.

I posted a link to an article on this site, as a comment, to someone’s post in Facebook. I was using the Facebook App on my phone at the time. Just to check out how the article was appearing, to make sure it the images in it looked OK from a phone, I clicked on the link I just posted. It took me to this site, but about three seconds later, the phone got taken over by a “Congratulations You Just Won A Facebook Sweepstakes” ad.

Hey! What Gives! I would never allow those kind of ads on my site here, but here they were! I’m not one of those duplicitous publishers.  I don’t want to turn off my visitors or infect their phones, but here those jerky ads were, on my site! How did this happen? Was my site hacked? How did they get there?

I got upset, and initially blamed it on Google, since I have their ads running on the site. They make such a pitifully small amount of revenue it would be inconsequential if I stopped their ads and only ran my own. This isn’t the only site I have Google Ads running on, and losing trust in Google wouldn’t just impact this site.

Breaking It Down

I am the publisher of this site you are reading this article on, ClickWhisperer.Com. I control all the content being served from this site. I have ads on the site being served from the Google AdWords network. If you are on your phone, and click on one of these Google AdWords ads, the website that the ad links to will be launched in the same browser you’re currently using. For example if you’re on an Android Phone and you’re using Chrome, clicking on one of the ads will take you to the advertiser’s site using Chrome as well. This is how it’s supposed to work, how I intend to serve you ads.

AdWords, nor anything else being served from the site, were not the source of hijacking ads.

Ads that take over your phone won’t appear on this site at all if you’re using Chrome and navigating directly to the site. If you type in the domain name or click on a link sent to you in an email, you go directly to this site. In that case you won’t experience ads taking over your phone. Observing this helped narrow down where the ads were coming from.

These ads appeared when I was using the Facebook App, clicking on links that are posted in Facebook. I assume these kind of ads that take over your phone won’t interfere with Facebooks Ads or Sponsored Links because that would have a negative impact on advertisers paying Facebook directly. Facebook doesn’t get paid for links that get posted as comment or in OPs (original posts).  When you click on a link that someone shared for free, for example to a news site or a community blog, your attention is being taken away from Facebook, and in a way is a cost to Facebook in order to allow you do do that.

Conclusion: The Culprits Identified

So what’s triggering these annoying ads on your phone? Who is behind them, supporting advertisers who run these aggressive contests and other promotions that take over your phone? Who else could it be but Facebook itself? The ad is appearing by virtue of the Facebook App. Facebook is the one taking money from these duplicitous advertisers, re-cooping that click away from their content. It’s not the meme site, the radical political site, or even the site about hacking that’s hacking your phone. Who else has the power to mess with your browsing session like that but Facebook? Conculsion: it’s because you’re clicking through the Facebook App.

What Gave It Away

Knowing that those ads weren’t coming from me, but seeing them when I clicked on a link to my site through the Facebook App gave it away for me. Additionally, the links don’t stay in the Facebook App’s built in mini-browser. They all get launched in my phone’s “Samsung Browser” instead because that’s what the App prefers to choose as opposed to Google’s superior Chrome browser. Admittedly these conclusions I’m reaching could be wrong, but they’re based on what I observed. It’s not the first time I discovered Facebook doing fishy stuff with their ads. Hopefully they’ll reform their practices and match their users with ads that don’t abuse them.

It’s not the publisher’s of non-mainstream websites who are allowing ads that take over your phone – it’s Facebook. 





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