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back to article iPhones dialling up premium-rate bills again

AdMob has been placing premium-rate numbers into iPhone applications again, this time in an application targeted at kids, who are even more likely than adults to hit the link without noticing. The application concerned is "Talking Tom Cat". The free app records the user's voice, and plays it back with comedy animations to the …

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that really is..

...a vile new scourge - "Click-to-call ads with premium numbers"

not sure if we get them on Android as I've rooted and ad-blocked, an operation which based on this nonsense is now essential I think.

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Community Spirit

So nice of you to take the time to inform the people on whocallsme.

NOT

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Hehe

"It's enough to make one side with Apple"

Yes, well they can't be wrong all the time. There's not much they can do here to really discourage that behavior.

Actually I think the courts should get involved and force admob to pay all unauthorized phone bills caused by them out of pocket. This would send a clear signal to these companies that this behavior won't be tolerated and show them that if they try, it will not be profitable.

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Pop up

"There's not much they can do here to really discourage that behavior."

Surely they can just set it up so that no call can be made by an app without a bloody big window popping up to tell you?

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Unhappy

Permissions

Geeze, I thought that Apple had the überOS to rule them all ... and they still haven't managed to put a permissions sandbox like the one the Blackberry OS uses? It is made so that apps can't dial out unless you give them permission to do so. And even then, you can set it to "always ask", so that you'll get a confirmation dialog before the call is made.

Anyway, enticing kids to dial premium rate numbers isn't new. I was fooled when I was 6 yrs old into calling Woody Woodpecker on a 1-900 number. My dad wasn't amused when the next phone bill came, and I learned about the scam.

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Boffin

They actually did that once.

Or, specifically, when -[UIApplication openUrl:] was invoked with a tel url, version 3.0.0 would take you to the phone app, but not actually make the call until the big button was pushed. Versions previous to that would autostart the call, and versions after that would autostart the call.

I don't remember the reason why Apple changed back to autostarting the call. I guess it was because of all the autodialer apps meant to make it possible to one-button call from the home screen. People finding the phone not actually making the call might have considered this next layer of required user interaction a bug.

In the US, premium-rate is often known as 900 or 976 due to those being the area code and local prefixes, respectively. So in that area, I suppose the dialer could prompt before calling with a simple check. Is such a filter possible with UK premium rate numbers?

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The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

Having the OS handle the popup prevents someone writing a replacement dialler app, a novelty rotary phone for instance as it would request confirmation all the time and ruin the experience, so as you say a user interaction bug.

App guidelines do state that developers should alert the user when a call is going to be made, the above example being a reasonable exception, so reviewers should catch this if it is clear an app can make calls which it isn't in this case.

The fault here is 100% with AdMob. If they provide the code for apps to include for ads then they can include code to alert about calls being made or prevent them being made. I would also possibly add that they should just not allow numbers in ads as without location information I can't see them being useful.

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AdMob

"...if AdMob can't get this fixed it's going to make Apple's iAd an increasingly attractive option."

Interesting conclusion. I'd venture to suggest that Average Joe doesn't know or care about the wranglings in the advertising business, and that this sort of things would reflect more on the iPhone - or even smart-phones in general - than it would AdMob.

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I think the point is that..

...regardless of what the punter thinks, most app developers won't want this type of behaviour associated with their app.

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Happened to my son

He was playing with this app and got me to say something - I noticed it wasn't playing it back and then realised it was in the middle of a phone-call to an 0906 number. I immediately hung up the call, not least because my charming boy had been asking me to say "Daddy needs a big wee" for some unknown reason.

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Flame

Explanations, whatever.

Of course, if AdMob were anywhere close to being a halfway reputable organisation, they wouldn't take ads with click-to-dial premium rate numbers in anyway.

But they're not, so they do. What's the point of getting quotes from an obvious scam-merchant? You're only ever going to get bullshit, equivocation and outright lies by return.....

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Thumb Down

Obviously free applications have to be paid for somehow

Wrong, free apps are free, you don't pay for them... because they are free!

An add supported app is not a free app, you may not pay up front but you pay by being hit with ads.

An ad with a dialler is no better then the old modem trojans and the people doing it need their ass kicked.

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Hmm

Then Apple needs to have the words "Ad supported" in the description. Not a big deal.

The advert is different to a trojan, you have to click on it and the advert is fairly clear that it is about a phone product. You can see the first time you run the app that the advert is there. You don't get that with a trojan, it remains hidden.

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Bronze badge

Absolutely

The word free has now been abused as much as the word unlimited.

Free access, but first we want your name, home address and email address. Ergo not free.

Free download, but first we require you to click through several pages of advertisements and provide an email address to send a download link to. Ergo not free.

Free laptop, but first you must sign a 2 year contract and pay us £35 per month. Ergo not free.

Some things are free, like the freedom to avoid such nonsense.

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ad with dialler and location info

As it is banned by Apple now this can't apply to AdMob, but what if with location information I get an ad for a local pizza place and I want to order a pizza? Tap the ad, place my order, wait for delivery. They aren't quote on the same level as modem trojans given the correct context. In this instance I would agree though.

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Pint

I know it's not something you should need to do....

.... but is there no way of stopping AdMob from doing this? I avoid any free apps like the plague when its got a AdMob bar along the top.

I feel for the developers who need to use there service as it can also make them look bad, even tho its not something they have done.

Beer icon. Wonder how many pints you can lose to AdMob....

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Stop calling....

To stop the app calling people, engage airplane mode. It also blocks the app from downloading new ads. I've got a few apps that I always run in airplane mode with a nice empty advert spot on the screen.

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Jobs Horns

Forgot what ads looked like until I bought an iPad.

The solution is Adblock. But you'll never see that on Safari.

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Go

Use AtomicWeb

This 59p iPad/iPhone application is a Webkit browser that INCLUDES Adblock and various other useful features.

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FAIL

RE: Forgot what ads looked like until I bought an iPad.

"The solution is Adblock. But you'll never see that on Safari."

Sitting here in front of my iMac with "AdBlocker" installed in Safari, I'd be inclined to disagree.

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Megaphone

what.. self-regulation?

"We will work with the app developer to block these ads if we discover they are showing."

"Once we discover the barn empty and the horse gone, we'll organise an investigative pop vox committee to run some (rather expensive) opinion polls vis-a-vis going forward on pre-planning procedures for design of an executive barn-locking scenario."

CAN'T WE JUST LINE THEM UP AGAINST A WALL AND SHOOT THE B-ARKERS?

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Stop

Odd [or not?]

Apple seem to drop apps with not so much as a blink when it might risk flash appearing or an desktop that might be vaguely "active" or basically anything that they get in a tizz about but not so quick this time, why? because they don't care, it doesn't directly affect their revenue stream, and blocking it can only negatively affect their carriers stream.

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Happy

iPhone4

If you have an iPhone 4, you can prevent it from sneakily making premium rate calls by holding it at the lower left corner.

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Anonymous Coward

@Dale 3. I quite a agree

What a great feature! I expect to see an apple slide show bragging about it very soon.

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Jobs Halo

Trojan Dialer?

How are these applications dialing numbers in the first place? Surely a sensible phone OS would sandbox such hazardous behaviour!

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FAIL

iphone dialing premium numbers

haha gets better and better first the antenna issue now its dialing high rate numbers haha they just cant get it right can they. next it will be batterys exploding or the screen comes off haha apple sucks end of

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Thumb Up

That's A Benefit Though...

If your iPhone drops the call or can't call out due to the crappy antenna, it saves you money on admob dialing out secretly. WIN-WIN in my books!

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Megaphone

Appalling

It seems to me Apple can ban apps for all sorts of petty, trivial or arbitrary reasons - so it has the power to ban these clearly dodgy apps.

No one would knowingly dial a premium rate number to 'support' these app makers - so they rely on amassing money by taking advantage of people'sunwitting behaviour.

Apple seems to be saying they're fine with that and that whilst they will protect app users from tiny cartoon penises and naughty words, they will look the other way when app makers are helping themselves to people's cash without their informed consent.

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FAIL

Duh, read tehs article

It's not the app developer in the wrong here, it's Admob. You know, the mobile advertising co. (now owned by Google...that hasn't helped clean up their act).

The fact that four ppl upvoted you can only mean there's at leas four other people who can't read around here... shocking!

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Silver badge

So how long before Apple puts AdMob on the

verboten vendors list?

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Coat

Symbian must be.......

......too small for these shysters to target. ;)

Mines the one that doesn't get antenna detuning or premium rate calls ;)

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FAIL

re: symbian

so your's isn't a phone then....

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Happy

required

"so your's isn't a phone then...."

He's talking about his coat, so no, not a phone and no, it doesn't suffer from problems like "antenna detuning or premium rate calls".

I'll get my... nevermind.

:-)

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Coat

Of course he's talking about his coat!

If he was talking about his Symbian, he wouldn't have mentioned the bit about dialing premium numbers.

http://www.f-secure.com/weblog/archives/00000259.html

RIght. Mine's the one with the two tin cans and some twine in the pocket.

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Gold badge

Two tin cans and twine

Mine's the one with the one tin can and twine so I can tap the Blain Harmon's tin cat set. For his own protection, and to serve him ads he wants to hear.

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WTF?

RE: Symbian must be.......

"Mines the one that doesn't get antenna detuning or premium rate calls ;)"

You can't make calls to certain numbers just because they're premium rate?

(Or are you just too stupid to write something that makes sense?)

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Unhappy

Doesn't this already contravene premium rate call rules (in the UK at least)

I have worked on automated dialler software in the past and we worked quite closely with ICSTIS (now Phone Pay Plus I think) The UK regulator for premium rate calls. The rules laid down were quite specific about informing the consumer before dialing. In our case we provided an interface where the user had to check "I am the billpayer", "I am aware of the fact that this will cost X Pence/min", "I agree to pay" ( think there was a 4th item but don't recall). These checkboxes had to clicked individually plus if the call cost hit £10 they had to opt in to continue and if it hit £20 it was an automatic disconnect.

If Admob is not doing this they I believe they are in violation and subject to fines of over £100k or more.

Its been a while though maybe it all changed.

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So just like the marketing dept

at the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation will Admob be first against the wall when the revolution comes?

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FAIL

Even J2ME...

...wouldn't have allowed this. Any J2ME app wanting to set up a call to a number would have resulted in the phone asking you if you want to call the number, showing the number in question.

Nice step BACKWARDS, Apple.

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This post has been deleted by its author

FAIL

RE: We are all wrong...

WTF are you on about? They used an iPhone 3GS and their conclusion was that Google and Apple phones were the best.

"Well I will be spending the next six months learning how to be right handed!"

I assume you're referring to the "death grip". Turns out that if you're left handed like me, you hold the phone in your right hand so that you can still type/write/do things...

So fails all round!

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