Google Says It Blocked 130 Million Scam Ads Last Year
You may still come across phony advertisements on Google and its partner sites, but the problem could be much, much worse.
Of the billions of advertisements submitted in 2011, Google disabled more than 130 million malicious ones, a 50 percent improvement from the previous year, Google's senior vice president of engineering, Sridhar Ramaswamy, wrote in a March 14 Google blog.
The blocked ads, Ramaswamy said, included offers for counterfeit goods, harmful products like guns and cigarettes, misleading claims like "lose weight guaranteed," ads trying to spread computer bugs, and other ads infringing on Google's policies.
"Like all other Internet companies, we're fighting a war against a huge number of bad actors — from websites selling counterfeit goods and fraudulent tickets to underground international operations trying to spread malware and spyware," Ramaswamy explained. "We must remain vigilant, because scammers will always try to find new ways to abuse our systems. Given the number of searches on Google and the number of legitimate businesses who rely on this system to reach users, our work to remove bad ads must be precise and at scale."
In 2011, Google said it shut down about 150,000 accounts for attempting to advertise counterfeit products.
Google is taking a proactive approach to eliminate ads before users are confronted with them; more than 95 percent of these malicious accounts were discovered through Google's own detection software.
Ramaswamy wrote that Google has built a newer and more precise risk model to detect policy violations and has a faster process for manual review of questionable ads. Google also aims to respond within 24 hours to complaints of bad ads.
It's not all good news on the Google advertising front.
Lisa Vaas from the security firm Sophos complimented Google on its proactive efforts to rid the Web of harmful ads, but she added, "It's no surprise the company is eager to neutralize the (deservedly) bad press its advertising platform has received."
Vaas noted that Google admitted to taking profits in January from ads for illegal products like phony ID cards and fake London 2012 Olympics tickets.
Google is also facing an international investigation into allegations it bypassed the privacy settings of millions of Safari Web browser users. The probe stems from Google's installation of cookies on some people's computers, iPhones and iPads even if the devices were set to block them.
Google told the Wall Street Journal it "will of course cooperate with any officials who have questions. But it's important to remember that we didn't anticipate this would happen, and we have been removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers."