Advertising networks enable developers to create revenue, but using them potentially impacts user privacy and requires developers to make legal decisions. To understand what privacy information ad networks give developers, we did a walkthrough of four popular ad network guidance pages with a senior Android developer by looking at the privacy-related information presented to developers.
We found that information is focused on complying with legal regulations, and puts the responsibility for such decisions on the developer. Also, sample code and settings often have privacy-unfriendly defaults laced with dark patterns to nudge developers’ decisions towards privacy-unfriendly options such as sharing sensitive data to increase revenue. We conclude by discussing future research around empowering developers and minimising the negative impacts of dark patterns.