China regulates use of motion detection to trigger smartphone ads
'Shake to jump' technique nixed a year after top apps put it to work
China's Telecommunication Terminal Industry Forum Association (TAF) has issued a raft of new regulations – including one that sets rules for when motion sensors can trigger smartphones to display ads or open websites.
The TAF on November 25 published nine sets of rules governing software development for mobile devices.
One of the documents is titled "Application software user rights protection evaluation specification — Part 7: Deception, misleading and coercion behavior."
The document sets rules for when apps can use smartphone motion sensors as a trigger to show ads: the devices need to accelerate by at least 15m/s2, with rotation angle of not less than 35°, and users employ their devices for at least three seconds.
Those metrics were chosen because apps currently use motion detectors to trigger ads when when users merely pick up their phones, perform movements such as entering or exiting a car, or even when a subway train's brakes engage to slow it down before entering a station.
Local media report the "feature" appeared in late 2021. Apps published by Weibo (China's rough equivalent to Twitter) and Baidu (China's top search engine) both reportedly adopted the technique, which became known as "shake to jump".
Chinese netizens were not fans because the ads and other material that appeared often proved hard to dispel. The practice was also unpopular because it subverted a legitimate feature that allowed users to navigate through an app by shaking a device. It's also just creepy.
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And now, a year after shake to jump was used to drive ad display, TAF has branded it a misleading and deceptive technology that must be restricted.
The guidelines issued by TAF also bar tricks that force users into unwanted downloads, and the use of windows that can't be closed.
TAF's regulations are voluminous: the nine documents address matters as diverse as protection of personal information and classification of smartphone apps.
China's tech giants have faced increasing regulation in recent years as Beijing seeks to curb their market power, prevent them disrupting the economy in ways that threaten established institutions, and ensure the local internet reflects Party values (by censoring alternative viewpoints).
China is also very concerned with making sure its internet is free of scams and crime – and weird scammy stuff like motion detection being used to drive ads and other promos. ®