Tuesday, January 28, 2014

'Angry Birds' developer blames third-party ad networks for alleged NSA leaks

Rovio, which found itself mentioned in some of the latest Edward Snowden leaked document as one of the apps that the NSA and GCHQ termed "leaky," responded on Tuesday with a press release on its site, throwing its ad partners under the bus.

The full press release reads:
Rovio does not provide end user data to government surveillance agencies

Espoo, Finland -- January 28th -- Rovio Entertainment Ltd, which is headquartered in Finland, does not share data, collaborate or collude with any government spy agencies such as NSA or GCHQ anywhere in the world.
There has been speculation in the media that NSA targets Angry Birds to collect end user data. The speculation is based on information from documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The alleged surveillance may be conducted through third party advertising networks used by millions of commercial web sites and mobile applications across all industries. If advertising networks are indeed targeted, it would appear that no internet-enabled device that visits ad-enabled web sites or uses ad-enabled applications is immune to such surveillance. Rovio does not allow any third party network to use or hand over personal end-user data from Rovio’s apps.

“Our fans’ trust is the most important thing for us and we take privacy extremely seriously. We do not collaborate, collude, or share data with spy agencies anywhere in the world. As the alleged surveillance might be happening through third party advertising networks, the most important conversation to be had is how to ensure user privacy is protected while preventing the negative impact on the whole advertising industry and the countless mobile apps that rely on ad networks”, said Mikael Hed, CEO of Rovio Entertainment. “In order to protect our end users, we will, like all other companies using third party advertising networks, have to re-evaluate working with these networks if they are being used for spying purposes.”
To be honest, we didn't think that Rovio was cooperating with these agencies, and we doubt most did. Instead, we felt there was a decent possibility that the NSA and GCHQ were able to grab user data from somewhere in the app or transmitted by the app, and not voluntarily.

Assuming -- and Rovio is quick to use the term "alleged" -- spying on end users is occurring, although Rovio may point to third party advertising networks for such leakage, since the ad code is embedded in the Rovio app, it's still something the company is responsible for.

It's yet another reason that paying for an app might be better in the long run for an end user. Yes, it lightens one's wallet, but it also means no bandwidth is used by advertising code, and no transmission of user data, either.

Still Rovio CEO Mikael Hed's statements about re-examining its advertising partnerships, possibly re-thinking its partnerships are encouraging for end users.

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