https://www.duolingo.com/kdb119

Inappropriate adverts appearing in Duolingo app!

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I do not believe the following advert, promoting gambling apps, is appropriate appearing on Duolingo which is used by children. Indeed the UK's ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) appears to explicitly state that such adverts are banned:

❛Given the growing diversity of activity online, it’s important for advertisers to target their ads effectively and responsibly.  This is particularly the case in relation to advertising for gambling, alcohol and other products that the ad rules CAP Code bans from being targeted at children and young people under 18.❜

Please note: before any more 'clever clogs' suggest this is connected to my search/browser history, let me disavow them of that notion. This is based upon a misunderstanding (or at least incomplete understanding) of how Google ad-serving works in practice. There are several reasons, technical and organisational, why Google is unable to serve targetted ads to me, including, but not limited to:

  • Targetting only happens if you choose to allow it. I have disabled that option.
  • The account and e-mail address I use is unique to Duolingo so Google cannot equate my Duolingo account with anything else I do.
  • I am never logged into a Google account when perforning searches.
  • Many of the comments assume I am using the Chrome browser on a PC. As stated in the post title I am using the app, which creates further restrictions upon what Google (or Duolingo) are able to do/access.
  • As I am using the iOS app, Apple (mostly) prohibits access data outside any app. Where it is permitted, this is strictly limited and require explicit permission from the user.
  • If Google access any of my private data, search/browsing history, cookies, etc, when I have expressly forbidden it, they are in breach of UK (English) and EU Law.
  • UK / EU law regards an IP address as personal data so Google cannot use that to target ads when permission has been denied. Plus, many ISPs only provide dynamic IP addresses, or a single address may be shared by many people. So that alone is not a suitable mechanism for 'personalising' ads.
  • The targetting of ads are not limited to what Google decides are your 'preferences' it simply prioritises those where it can depending upon the options set by Duolingo.

Given the above (even just point 1), Google serve random ads unconnected with any personaisation or preferences. This means anyone may receive this, or similar ads, especially given the apparently tiny pool of adverts being served in the UK.

November 3, 2017

9 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7

Duolingo doesn't hand pick ads. The company helping Duolingo uses a person's own internet browsing history to pair them with ads. So, if you share internet in your house, I recommend clearing your cookies and talking with yourself and/or your housemates/ppl you loan/borrow your internet from.

November 3, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/OmegaGmaster

Or you can get the Disconnect Chrome extension and stop letting yourself be tracked. Tor is even better.

November 3, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/lizsue

This will also let you see which ads the program choses as a "default," right?

November 4, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/kdb119
  • 1504

Note: I specifically referred to the app.

November 4, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/kdb119
  • 1504

Except I have never intentionally visited a gambling (app) website. If any appear in my browsing history it's the result of sites/apps such as Duolingo moving (close) buttons around to catch people out by accidentally clicking/tapping the wrong thing!

Nevertheless, these kinds of adverts should not be appearing the first place and under UK law it is the responsibility of Duolingo to ensure this. Duolingo should be pre-emptively filtering this, not reacting retrospectively only after these are reported; irrespective of browser history. After-all, minors are possibly the most likely to have visited inappropraite sites accidentally and thus be served further such content.

November 4, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/kdb119
  • 1504

@Usagiboy7: that is only a partial understanding of how it actually works. In my case the adverts are not targetted and entirely random for the reasons I explain in my reply to @Pentaan, below. :-)

November 4, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7

You are welcome to send a report to Duolingo using this form. Be sure to look through the drop down menu for what category best fits.

November 5, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/pentaan

How do I report an ad?
https://support.duolingo.com/hc/en-us/articles/115004087366-How-do-I-report-an-ad-

....... so, for example, if Google knows that you like to buy My Little Pony figurines, they will choose to show you ads for that).

However, we have filters in place to block any ad content that would be considered objectionable by language learners. We take this very seriously – if you see anything remotely inappropriate, please take a screenshot, record the destination URL of the ad, and report it to abuse@duolingo.com.

November 3, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/kdb119
  • 1504

Actually, how Duolingo state this works is not entirely accurate.

Firstly, what browser history does the Duolingo app have? Secondly, adverts are only tailored to browser history if you permit that and are logged into a Google account whilst browsing. If, as in my case, one is not logged into an account whilst performing Google searches, then any adverts presented are entirely random and not connected with any browsing history or sites visited.

It says, 'if Google knows'. In the situtation outlined above Google has no means of connecting the e-mail account I log in to Duolingo with, to any browsing history. Not least because the account I log in with is uniquely used only for Duolingo. Thus the adverts served will be entirely random, Therefore, this advert may be served to anyone - but possibly counter-intuitively, dodgy adverts are actually more likely to be served to people, like myself, that Google cannot determine browsing history or preferences for.

Currently, this is the only advert being served to me. For the previous few weeks it had been almost exclusively Google's own G-Suite.

November 4, 2017
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