Lock screen adware in the Play Store is nothing new. Last year, Google had a bit of an epidemic on its hands, when once beloved apps such as ES File Explorer starting showing unwarranted overlays while phones were charging. We saw a similar thing with the Peel Smart Remote app earlier this year, and the latest offender appears to be Hotspot Shield VPN.
This is a widely trusted app, with more than 50m downloads and a Play Store rating of 4.2 from almost 1m reviewers. However, since it was updated around a week ago, increasing numbers of disgruntled paying users have voiced concerns that the app may have introduced some rather more nefarious practices. There are two lock screen overlay settings available to Elite subscribers. One shows performance metrics and the other shows news, with the odd ad thrown in amongst the stories. The first of those is enabled by default since the update, but some users are alleging that turning them off does not work, forcing the overlays upon them. Here is a selection of comments from the app’s Play Store listing:
“Suddenly and with out permission my phone is showing their lock screen on top of mine! Did ask , dont want, can’t get it to stop even though selected off, deleted until that goes away!”
“Two, stupid lock screen with ads. Not for me. It’d be better to have ads in the app itself not everything you unlock your screen. You could still monetize your free app but be less intrusive. Very sorry but uninstalled.”
“Co stantly gives me ads even though I have elite as well. Really rubbish now. So disappointing.”
“The lock screen widget cannot be turned off. It just turns back on! It’s hijacked it”
“Latest update hijacks lockscreen by default. Even for the premium paid service. Garbage app developers do this.