Ad technologies are giving the National Security Administration an inadvertent assist in its data collection efforts.
Or so says Rovio, maker of the popular Angry Birds franchise, which today pointed the finger at third-party ad networks after a new report from The Guardian which named the game as one of many "leaky mobile apps" that allow the NSA to collect age, gender and location information on users.
"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," Rovio Entertainment CEO Mikael Head said in a statement.
Mr. Head added that if the ad networks are being used for spying, Rovio will reevaluate working with those ad tech intermediaries "like all other companies using third party advertising networks."
It's not clear which networks were responsible for Rovio's vulnerability. The Guardian cited Millennial Media as one vendor. The mobile ad network Millennial bought last August, Jumptap, has also previously worked with Rovio. Google published a case study in 2010 touting how Rovio used the search giant's mobile ad network AdMob.
The report may draw more regulatory scrutiny to third-party companies, such as ad tech firms, that collect and use people's information to target them with ads. Federal Trade Commission commissioner Julie Brill has said that the middlemen storing and selling that information, called data brokers, are on her radar.
The Guardian report is the latest revelation to stem from whistleblower Edward Snowden's document trove that last summer revealed how the NSA's PRISM program accesses people's information through technology companies including Google, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.