Cleaning up online advertising: Google and Bing make life hard for undesirable advertisers

Article

Advertising of predatory financial services

Google Will Start Banning All Ads From Payday Lenders | Mashable

Advertising of online tech-support scams

Bing brings in blanket ban on online tech support ads | Naked Security

My Comments

Google clamps down on advertising of predatory financial services

An issue that has caused a lot of concern with the Global Financial Crisis is the existence of predatory sub-prime financing services like payday and other short-term loans. This issue has been raised as a civil rights issue as well as a consumer-protection issue because predatory lending occurs more with disadvantaged communities and the kind of loan products charge exorbitant amounts of interest.

Google has attacked this issue by prohibiting payday and similar lenders from advertising through their Adwords search-advertising platform. As far as I know, it doesn’t affect any of Google’s display advertising services like Adsense or Admob. This follows similar action that Facebook had taken concerning their online advertising platform, with both these companies being the biggest online advertising platforms encompassing both their own properties and the ad networks that serve other publishers and mobile app developers. It is part of Silicon Valley’s reaction to contemporary issues of concern like civil rights.

This will effect the advertising of loan products that are due within 60 days or have an interest rate of 36% or more in the USA. But the issue that may surface is whether Google will apply this rule to their display advertising networks and if other online advertising services will follow suit and apply it across their products.

Bing clamping down on online tech-support scams

I have given a fair bit of airtime on HomeNetworking01.info about the online tech-support scams due to hearing from people in my community who have had near misses with these scams.

This typically manifested in the form of the phone calls that people received from someone pretending to be the tech-support team associated with a respected IT or telecommunications name, stating that the user’s computer has a virus or something else is wrong with the user’s computer hardware or software.  But they lead you to establish a remote-access path to your computer so they can “fix” the perceived “problem” or “threat” for a fee, with these scammers making off with a large sum of money or installing software of questionable provenance and relevance on your computer.

Most of us have become aware of these scams through the various customer-education efforts by the IT community and consumer-protection organisations, encouraging us to seek IT support from people whom you know and have met in person like your business’s IT department or the IT experts in your household, family or community.

This has led to computer users not answering these calls or simply hanging up when they receive those calls. Now the scammers’ MO has changed towards cost-per-click Web ads or popups that flash up warning messages saying that your computer has problems and instructing you to call a toll-free number. This plays on the fact that you are seeking a problem to be rectified by placing that phone call.

Bing Ads, which is part of Microsoft’s Bing search platform, have banned the advertisement of third-party tech-support services because of the quality issues that are affecting end-users’ data safety. There has been an unintended consequence from this ruling which has made it hard for honest IT-support providers to advertise their services on that platform.

Conclusion

I see it as one of many efforts by the online advertising industry to clean up its act and gain the same level of respect as traditional advertising but there could be a more uniform approach to the problem of questionable online and mobile advertising.

The only way I see this coming about is for the industry to adopt a code of practice with conformance being indicated to end-users, publishers, content-filter software and others through distinct trademarks and symbols. This could address issues like advertising that is allowed, the kinds of ad contracts offered including the tenure of these contracts and the kind of payment received, due-diligence requirements, and liaison with law enforcement, customer protection and other authorities.

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