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How Google Manages Click Fraud

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the making-advertisers-warm-and-happy dept.

130

Finin writes "In February 2005, Google was sued by Lane's Gifts & Collectibles in a class-action lawsuit over click fraud. The company alleged that Google had been improperly billing for pay-per-click ads that were not viewed by legitimate potential customers. As part of a settlement earlier this year, Google agreed to have an independent expert examine their click fraud detection methods, policies, and procedures and make a determination of whether or not they were reasonable measures to protect advertisers. The report of the expert, NYU Information Systems Professor Alexander Tuzhilin (a Professor of Information Systems at NYU), is now available." Update 07/26/2006 at 12:52 GMT by SM: Fixed the link to Tuzhilin's report.

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real link to report (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15782828)

this is the correct link, the other one is just legal blahblah:

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/pdf/Tuzhilin_Report .pdf [blogspot.com]

Re:real link to report (1)

oriol (463269) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782836)

... and the reports states that the fake click detection mechanism is reasonably handled by the google "CLick Quality Team".

MOD PARENT UP! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15782849)

and edit the story while you're at it...

Re:real link to report (4, Informative)

DeadSea (69598) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782855)

For anyone interested in reading the findings without having to wade through it all, then go to page 36 and start with section 9.3 where a little further on it also refers to account terminations and how this occurs, section 9.6 is the bit that I guess most may be interested in...you never know, you may then decide to read it all

- OptiRex [webmasterworld.com]

And the conclusion? (2, Informative)

blorg (726186) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784846)

I conclude that Googles efforts to combat click fraud are reasonable.

Maybe should have been in the summary. The document is also fascinating account of how they go about it however.

Statistics about click fraud shown to Adwords user (5, Informative)

DeadSea (69598) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782833)

Google is (as of yesterday) now showing statistics about how many invalid clicks an adwords account has recieved. You can read all about it in the adwords blog [blogspot.com]

Re:Statistics about click fraud shown to Adwords u (4, Insightful)

Jonah Hex (651948) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783493)

Now this seems like a damn stupid idea to me. Say I'm trying to discover methods to click fraud my competitors or perhaps come up with automated software to sell. I can now use a dummy account with Google using search terms no one would hit and test different methods of fraud while getting feedback on which methods trip their detection.

Jonah HEX

Re:Statistics about click fraud shown to Adwords u (1)

funfail (970288) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783869)

While it's true that revealing too many information is an information security problem, they are in a position that most advertisers believe that Google AdWords has more invalid clicks than other competitors. They have to prove (or at least, show) something to keep customers.

Re:Statistics about click fraud shown to Adwords u (1)

Jonah Hex (651948) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785299)

While I understand that the customers want info about invalid clicks, in this case I think they are shooting themselves in the foot. Security through secrecy has always been a hot topic, but in some cases it definitely has an advantage. Customers will not be pleased if click fraud increases as a result of this, and Google will possibly have to move faster and with more resources to shore up their fraud detection (not too bad for customers but could be bad for Google with the bad PR, etc).

Jonah HEX

Re:Statistics about click fraud shown to Adwords u (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784613)

Simple solution... Delay the data by a random time. At one attempt per minute you could find 'working' fraud methods pretty easily, but if you had to wait 4 days between each attempt then it becomes infeasible.

Re:Statistics about click fraud shown to Adwords u (1)

Jonah Hex (651948) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785215)

While that possibility did occur to me, there is also these issues:
Giving the customer recent data, preferably not more than 48 hours old. Most people will expect near real time statistics from Google on this one.
Using multiple accounts to test many methods, thus allowing many attacks to be checked while making any delay between attack/statistics less of an issue.

Jonah HEX

Re:Statistics about click fraud shown to Adwords u (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15786460)

No. If you're committing click fraud on your own account, you already know how many clicks you're causing and how many are reported in your AdWords report (fraudulent clicks are already excluded), so the "fraudulent clicks" column doesn't give you any additional information.

Enron (3, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782834)

If ad-sense is its major source of money, and it keeps the underlying numbers pretty well buried, could we be looking at another Enron? Imagine it comes out that 90% of all clicks are fraudulent. How many advertizers leave? How badlu does the stock drop? This is one of the things that makes me nervous about Google as an investment. Remember, Enron was loved by Wall Street too. Enron did not produce anything physical either. Enron reported great numbers. Underlying numbers were hidden away.

How is Google diferent that the big "E"?

Re:Enron (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782866)

Enron was loved by Wall Street too.

Wall street hates google.

How is Google diferent that the big "E"?

Enron was deliberately fraudulent. Google (to our knowledge) is not.

Re:Enron (1)

lilfields (961485) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783939)

For starters, Google as an investment isn't exactly loved by Wall Street it's P/E ratio of 57.09 is despised, especially in the slowing U.S. economy. When it comes to click fraud, I would say from personal experience that they [Google] are very strict in their policies. If you want to see click fraud at it's highest with little policy enforement look no further than Yahoo!s Publisher program...here [qoogle.com] is an example of click promotion with Yahoo!'s program.

Re:Enron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15785261)

[blockquote]Enron was deliberately fraudulent. Google (to our knowledge) is not.[/blockquote]
I don't know, it depends on what you mean exactly by "deliberately fraudulent." I think you might be interested to read some of the information over at Google-Watch [google-watch.org] . Some of Google's policies have felt pretty deliberately fraudulent to me.

Re:Enron (5, Funny)

Zaphod2016 (971897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782871)

How is Google diferent that the big "E"?

Branding. For example, Google's famous motto is: "don't be evil". If memory serves, Enron's less-famous motto was: "Ken Lay needs a new boat".

Re:Enron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15782992)

So, in that regard, Enron was MORE honest than Google?

Re:Enron (2, Informative)

jackbird (721605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783505)

Ironically, Enron's motto was actually "ask why."

Re:Enron (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783932)

Well, consider that their standard response was: "You are too stupid to understand. Of course it is perfectly legal. Shut up and give us your money."

Re:Enron (1)

unPlugged-2.0 (947200) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785106)

Actually,

I believe the correct and revised motto was

"Ask Why .... A**hole"

This was after Skillings lost it in an investor call where an analyst questioned his earnings and called him that.

It became the unofficial slogan of the company after that.

Ironically enough,

This slogan also fits quite nicely for Slashdot.

Re:Enron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15783636)

If memory serves, Enron's less-famous motto was: "Ken Lay needs a new boat".

Well, what else do you think he's going to use to get over the Styx? Say hello Cacus for me, Kenny Boy.

Re:Enron (1)

baadger (764884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783786)

I'm gonna click me a new minivan :)

I guess Google's new motto is... (1)

pacalis (970205) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785775)

"Larry and Brin need California king size beds on their plane"


From WSJ "Lawsuits Fly Over Google Founders' Big Private Plane"

Mr. Jennings says Messrs. Brin and Page "had some strange requests," including hammocks hung from the ceiling of the plane. At one point he witnessed a dispute between them over whether Mr. Brin should have a "California king" size bed, he says. Mr. Jennings says Mr. Schmidt stepped in to resolve that by saying, "Sergey, you can have whatever bed you want in your room; Larry, you can have whatever kind of bed you want in your bedroom. Let's move on."

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB11522278853 6400097-i72SXBBTMX_EPvtfDIn9uNjtiss_20070707.html [wsj.com]

Re:Enron (2, Insightful)

GundamFan (848341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782880)

There is no way of knowing for sure but Google does produce things (like gmail and gcalender) and is not simply a black hole that money comes out of (how investment profesonals fall for that I will never know). I know that I trust a company that doesn't hinge there busness model on energy futures trading (what is that anyway?) more than one who's busness I understand (essentaly advertising).

Re:Enron (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782937)

Energy futures trading is like selling an insurance policy. It's really no more risky than investing in say, Allstate or Geiko. Both involve trading instruments in future risk.

I agree you shouldn't invest in something you don't understand. But I don't think there's an inherent flaw in investing in a company involved in futures trading.

google future (1)

uioreanu (554486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782958)

there simply has to be a time in google's future when they will stop throwing money at flashy rounded-corners web2.x apps, and try squeasing money out of their plethora of experiments.

In regards to gmail, besides leading the way with "new approach blahblah", and many innovations like coloured conversations and advanced search options, what is the real business model behind it? Don't tell me that the adsense box on the right gets any click.

Re:google future (2, Insightful)

mstone (8523) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783434)

Why? Google already has a solid and profitable business model.

The additional projects are just R&D with a very public face. They offer great brand exposure. They give Google's software team lots of experience dealing with the realities of building and maintaining software that thousands to millions of people use every day. They keep the company from developing tunnel vision. And in some cases they've put Microsoft on the defensive, so it has to spend time and resources defending its own markets rather than trying to take over Google's market.

Those are all solid and reasonable benefits for the company, even if none of the projects can ever be turned into a direct-revenue cash cow.

And if one of those projects happens to hit the combination of factors that does allow it to turn into The Next Big Thing, the payoff from that one winner will more than cover the cost of all the other research along the way.

Re:google future (1)

uioreanu (554486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783649)

your explanations sound good, and if it were just R&D that could mature into some unknown-yet business things are indeed great. If google were a treee, besides getting more experience, the engineers get more and more work into various areas; therefore the branches of this tree tend to consume more of its initial power. Now we are whitnessing the tree growth, which is admirable, but later on it'll be the laws of nature speaking. Then it's the entire tree that either collapses or stagnates; unless bad branches get chopped away.

Re:Enron (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783492)

Energy future trading is about trying to figure out how much energy will cost in a week, month, year even longer, and trading on values of that. You try to predict whether energy will be cheaper or more expensive, by looking at a whole range of factors, including weather, wars, politics, etc...Of course, trading on those future values will actually change those future values, so this needs to be taken into consideration. Yes, it is a load of bollocks, to an even greater degree than the stock market, but by manipluting those values, you can make a lot of money (just like Enron).

My personal belief, is that it is a complicated system, setup so the rich can make even more money, otherwise they might have to do something smart with it.

Re:Enron (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784229)

Generally no one makes money just betting on things (a few very well informed individuals make a nice living at it). A large company to make money they have to be able to something bigger than that. Enron's trading got it's start by taking a spread between producers and consumers who both wanted to be able to lock in prices to facilitate planning (they also owned pipelines which transfered physical gas around the country). Where they got into trouble was in internaitonal deals (that were poorly structured due to the compensation schemes in place for the project managers) and toward the end the mark to model accounting they were using combined with a minor league fraud by the CFO and financial staff (that was the straw that broke the camel's back).

Re:Enron (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783620)

a black hole that money comes out of
As opposed to Advertising which is a black hole that money pours into.

Re:Enron (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785285)

Speaking of things that don't produce anything, Slashdot has a long tradition of doing that. Why aren't they more popular on the stock market ;-)

Advertising is such a scam when everything else is boiled away.

Re:Enron (2, Interesting)

ubergenius (918325) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782883)

While I agree with you in principle that Google is an uneasy investment (which is why, although I love everything Google, I have yet to invest in them), I must protest the comparison to Enron. While it is always possible that I am wrong, I get the distinct impression that Google is much more forthcoming and honest about their situation than Enron. When Enron tanked, it was because of a deliberate and illegal practice of doctoring their financial situation. I highly doubt Google is doing the same thing.

Furthermore, with the debut of Google Payments, and its eventual integration throughout the web, and its current ability to easily sell videos (of which many media companies have already jumped on board, such as ABC, NBC, etc.) with Google Video, and the possible announcement of an Office competitor (with Google Spreadsheets being the starting point), I think they will slowly begin diversifying their revenue, which will make them a much more appealing investment opportunity in the future.

Re:Enron (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783554)

Damn! I was hoping since you were talking about vidoes and office competitors in the same line, that you were suggesting the Google would come out with its own version of the BBCs The Office.

Serg: "What is the single most important thing for a company? Is it the building? Is it the stock? Is it the turnover? It's the engineers, investment in engineers. My proudest moment here wasn't when I increased profits by 1000%, or cut expenditure without losing a single member of staff. No. It was a young Greek guy, first job in the country, hardly spoke a word of English, but he came to me and he went, 'Mr. Brent, will you be the Godfather to my child?', Didn't happen in the end. We had to let him go, he was rubbish. He was rubbish"

Re:Enron (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782938)

Hmm, all replies thus far don't really appeal to me. 'I assume google is not doing bad stuff' doesn't sound like a decent fundament for fair and correct trading to me. What the Parent is trying to say, google can just make up the income from clicks themselves, or charge extra clicks to their costumers where they see appropriate. This is of course a mechanism beyond where any of us can get insight.

I guess what do counts is that they earn a percentage of all click-throughs on websites, which means that by looking at the money streams going in and out of google, one could get a decent estimate of how much money they're making. If too many advertizers complain about too high costs for what they get (say google does allow fraudulent clicks), then they'll move to another ad service. Still it remains partly virtual.

Probably most of these problems are solved (but ad revenues for many people diminished as well) when the system will be in place where and advertizement only pays off after a succesfull deal through the specific ad.

Re:Enron (3, Insightful)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783100)

Google make pots of money because AdWords does result in a good return on investment relative to other forms of advertising.

Consider this. Imagine a fictional company that spends $10,000/month with Google on advertising, and is completely happy with the service because it results in lots of leads and sales. So it is actually profitable to spend this money. There are many companies in exactly this situation. Does it matter if 90% of clicks are fraudulent (which is probably not going to happen unless you are being deliberately targetted by a competitor)? If you are still getting a great ROI then no it doesn't matter. The invalid clicks are just noise.

Google does produce something valuable if not physical - it produces a ton of people viewing websites who then go onto buy things. Same as any form of advertising. Except the relevance of AdWords makes it more valuable than most.

Re:Enron (1)

stevenmusumeche (775041) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783969)

Yes it matters, because if 90% of the clicks are fraud, then you are spending 90% too much money on advertising. Just because a company is profitable using AdWords doesn't mean that they couldn't be more profitable if the click fraud was removed. Also, the cost of PPC advertising is going up. So while you may be profitable now, in a year, you won't be unless the click fraud can be removed.

Re:Enron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15785449)

It is a good point but lets follow this example to examine sources where your thinking might fail. If I am an advertiser and pay $10,000/yr for AdWords and magically somehow, I can be sure that this has resulted in an increase of $15,000 in net income, then I could say advertisting resulted in a net gain of $5,000/yr. This is a good thing.

Now, lets say that in that last example, 90% of the clicks I paid for were invalid. Lets say google realized this and being the good people they are, decided to add some amazing filters that got rid of every single one of those. To compensate for lost revenue, they simply charge 10x as much for each click. We still have the same numbers in the end, $10,000/yr in AdWords expense and $15,000/yr in net gain -> $5,000 profit.

Up until this point, I have only showed that the poster I am responding to is correct. However, now lets consider the fact that advertisers are in direct competition with eachother. A competitor can launch a bot that will use up all of your company's clicks and your ad wont be displayed anymore until the next day, however, you will be charged for all the clicks you apparently got. Using the first hypothetical set of filters (whose use resulted in 90% invalid clicks that were not identified as such) your competitor, who is using this bot, has an edge over you. He can bid much lower on his ads knowing that his bot will eat up all of your higher bidding ads and his will be displayed anyways. Using the second set of hypothetical filters, your competitor would be in an even playing field with you. His bot would be useless since all of it's activity is caught by the filters. You are now paying 10x more per click, however, you are only being billed for 1/10th the number of clicks you would be if the filters were not present. You still end up with the same profits from advertising, but now, without losing an edge on advertising expenses to your fradulent competitor

Re:Enron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15783107)

Simple answer: Google's business model is based on datamining.

enron had one good product (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783136)

interestingly, enron came up with those huge commercial sized wind power generators. At the firesale, GE bought that division and those are some of the ones going in all over for commercial electrical generation.

Here is what they have now

http://www.gepower.com/businesses/ge_wind_energy/e n/index.htm [gepower.com]

Re:Enron (0, Redundant)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783249)

Google isn't evil. I also doubt that most clicks are clickfraud. I do admit to clicking on a banner ad when I find a website that I really like, but only if it interests me on some level.

Re:Enron (1)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783783)

If ad-sense is its major source of money, and it keeps the underlying numbers pretty well buried, could we be looking at another Enron?

To my knowledge, Enron never produced anything of marketable value. It was essentially a mercantile operation that got increasingly further away from trading in actual goods to trading in promises of future deliveries. That has always been a bubbly area.

OTOH, Google's underlying success is based on a kind of entrepreneural manufacture: they were the first to develop a comercially successful automated page-ranked search engine, and they have demonstrated an ability to keep churning out significant firsts of commercial value, like the Web 2.0 technology behind Google Maps and Google Earth, etc. Their business model is very similar to Microsoft of 10 years ago, or Borland, Word Perfect, or Lotus of 20 years ago. It has strong parallels with the early Ford Motor Company, the early McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, Fulton's steamboat company, etc.

There are good reasons not to buy Google stock as a long term investment right now, but to my mind these reasons have to do with its current high visibility and the likelihood that its stock is temporarily inflated by speculators. It looks like a company that has strong fundamentals and very strong growth potential, so once the current hoo-hoo-harrah settles down, it will probably be as sound an investment as IBM, Ford Motor Company, or International Harvester.

Remember, this is free investment "advice" from Slashdot, and it is worth every penny you've paid for it!

Re:Enron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15784126)

Friends that have websites running ads report that they believe 80% of the clicks on the ads displayed on their sites are fraudulant and the other 20% are accidental clicks. I don't know weahter to believe them or not, but I do not believe the 10% that Google reports is correct either.

There is no report (3, Informative)

Saib0t (204692) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782840)

The PFG linked to in the summary does not contain the report of the expert.

Rather it is the answer to the judge and mentions (2 or 3 times, shortly) the report of the expert. All the meat that is to be found in the PDF is that the report is conclusive that Google does all it can reasonably to combat click fraud.

The PDF is interesting only if you're interested in legal stuff...

My 0.02

There is a report... That was the wrong pdf (1, Redundant)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782859)

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/pdf/Tuzhilin_Report .pdf [blogspot.com] This actually has a lot more meat and information since this is the actual report.

I'm sure our dedicated editors will correct it (0, Offtopic)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782944)

Any second now. Aaaaaaany second now...

Link Fraud (3, Informative)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782895)

If you don't have time to read the full 47 page report, Search Engine Watch [searchenginewatch.com] has summarized some of the most interesting findings.

404 - File Not Found

Re:Link Fraud (1)

blcamp (211756) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782953)


No, it's there. Try the same link again.

Re:Link Fraud (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783154)

If you don't have time to read the full 47 page report, Search Engine Watch has summarized some of the most interesting findings.

404 - File Not Found


Well, that is the sumarisation of how they manage linkfraud.

Re:Link Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15783250)

Dont you mean..

404 - Click Not Found ?

Fire and Brimstone (0, Offtopic)

mhazen (144368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782915)

For a company that has a guiding creed of "Don't do evil", I wonder why I keep smelling traces of sulphur when their name comes up. Not all evil involves point-blank fraud, or requires a malicious nature.

From the objections_response (5, Funny)

mustafap (452510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782922)

Nice quote:

"The California attorneys take the position that the damages are 200 times $90 million, or 18 billion, which is more revenuse than google has received in its entire existance"

You just have to hand it to lawyers, they'll try anything.

Re:From the objections_response (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782979)

Damages to a third party CAN be more than the company makes.

The number itself might be unreasonable, but not the fact that the damages are more than the income.

Re:From the objections_response (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783026)

>Damages to a third party CAN be more than the company makes.

Would you care to explain your reasoning *in this case* though?

Re:From the objections_response (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783322)

'Damages' in lawsuits are always a made-up number based on BS projections. I fail to see why this case should suddenly be realistic when no other case is.

Re:From the objections_response (2, Insightful)

mjh (57755) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783780)

The number itself might be unreasonable, but not the fact that the damages are more than the income.

Really? Aren't the damages in this particular case supposed to be fees that advertisers paid to Google that they shouldn't have paid? If that's true, how can the plaintiff attorneys allege that the damages for click fraud exceed the total revenue that Google has taken in during it's entire lifetime?

NOTE: I'm not saying your wrong. I just don't understand. Can you clarify?

Re:From the objections_response (3, Informative)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784574)

Let's say your advertising budget is $100. In our example, each $1 you spent on advertising (historically) returns you $20 in sales and $5 in profits. You spent $20 of your budget on Google Adwords, 25% of which went to click fraud. So that's not only $10 wasted, but $200 less in sales and $50 less in profit that you could've had if there was no fraud.

That's the basic logic, I believe.

Re:From the objections_response (1)

sheldon (2322) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784580)

They may be saying that had the advertiser known that this mechanism was worthless sooner, they would have advertised elsewhere which would have brought in additional sales.

so they're seeking damages on lost sales opportunity, which may very well be much more than advertising costs.

Re:From the objections_response (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784974)

Really? Aren't the damages in this particular case supposed to be fees that advertisers paid to Google that they shouldn't have paid?

Not at all. You would start with the percentage of fees paid that were fraudulent as the base amount. Then you add in the opportunity cost of, a) lost revenue for the duration of the AdSense subscription; b) fees that could have been paid to a more accurate advertiser for the duration of the AdSense subscription; c) time spent trying to track down and discover that the majority of clicks were fraudulent, and; d) the list goes on!

So it is much more than just what you paid for that turned out to be fraudulent. The opportunity cost of fraudulent advertising is just massive.

Re:From the objections_response (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784061)

This is true - if a company spends 50 cents for each dollar that comes in, it is charging its customers double its income, and therefore can be sued for double its income.

But in google's case it is all almost pure profit. They *maybe* spend 10 cents for each dollar.

What Microsoft should learn from Google... (0, Offtopic)

jkrise (535370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15782926)

Instead of throwing chairs or tantrums, lecturing about security etc...

As part of a settlement earlier this year, Google agreed to have an independent expert examine their click fraud detection methods , policies, and procedures and make a determination of whether or not they were reasonable measures to protect advertisers. The report of the expert, NYU Information Systems Professor Alexander Tuzhilin, a Professor of Information Systems at NYU is now available....

Microsoft ought to have some independent experts studying their source code, and reporting whether the products are actually designed propoerly / elegantly / optimally / for best performance / buggily. Simply dishing out Service Packs and Lip Service cannot work for very long.

Re:What Microsoft should learn from Google... (1)

jasen666 (88727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783098)

Yes, well the main difference here is that Google probably expects to be exonerated by this. They obviously think their fraud detection is going to be proven at least sufficient.
Whereas MS (and all of us forced to use it's OS) knows that if any 3rd party expert devs looked at their code in any detail, they'd probably be horrified. I'm sure they already know that their code is spaghetti, why prove it to the world?

Re:What Microsoft should learn from Google... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15783366)

Simply dishing out Service Packs and Lip Service cannot work for very long.

It's been working fine for over 20 years, and longer for old school like IBM.

Billboards (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783053)

Advertisers will pay for a billboard without any guarantee from the advertising company about how many people will drive past the sign, how many of those will read it, how many will take the information in and act on it. The client is assumed to be taking a risk in that regard.

Over time people decide for themselves whether a particular type of advertising is working for them. If the business keeps coming in why should there be a need for this type of analysis?

Re:Billboards (1)

fensflyer (796443) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783140)

The difference between billboards and Google Adwords is that advertisers do not pay based on the number of people who *look* at the billboard, unlike Google ads where the charge (if I understand correctly) is based on the number of clicks an ad gets. It is much easier to fraudulently modify the value/cost of a Google Ad than a billboard.

Re:Billboards (4, Insightful)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783196)

Advertisers will pay for a billboard without any guarantee from the advertising company about how many people will drive past the sign, how many of those will read it, how many will take the information in and act on it. The client is assumed to be taking a risk in that regard.

But "outdoor advertising" firms make no representations that they can measure these things. You know what you're getting when you buy space on a billboard. AdWords is different because Google sells it with claims that they can track these things (indeed, they bill you based on the results of that tracking). If Google's click tracking is inaccurate, you aren't getting what you thought you were getting. That's the difference.

Re:Billboards (3, Insightful)

mstone (8523) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783673)

That objection can be solved if you add the concept of 'noise' to Google's reported numbers, and I'd say most people already do that.. at least to some degree.

I don't think many people expect every adwords click to result in a sale for the advertiser. Instead, people just check to see whether there's a correlation between 'more adwords clicks' and 'more sales'. If 100 adwords clicks produce 30 additional sales, you can say that the adwords are 30% effective. Then it's up to you to decide whether those 30 additional sales are worth the cost of those 100 clicks. If so, you can write 70% of their adwords fee off as a cost of doing business. If not, you can close your adwords account, or lower the amount you're willing to pay per click.

If Google was padding its numbers, people would see lower return rates from their adwords accounts. Those people would then be less willing to pay for the service. They wouldn't expand their accounts to cover other words.

In other words, there's already a feedback mechanism that punishes Google for any loss of efficiency in its adwords program, and rewards Google for providing the best results it can.

Re:Billboards (1)

pacalis (970205) | more than 8 years ago | (#15786151)

This is such a goofball arguement. Yes, googles actions cause the rate of returns to advertisers to approach zero as the amount of clickfraud increases. That's NOT a disincentive - is mean's that google captures all the surplus rents when fraud goes up. Now introduce a delay between measurement an action and the winner of the adwords auctions actually lose as they overspend before they pull out.
Now to this concept of noise - guess you've been reading your Claude Shannon? Again, you start off reasonable - advertisers will look at correlates, but they can only do this once they experiment, and there's a big winner's curse problem is that you have to spend money before you get click data. So google promises a bunch of clicks, and the advertisers will base an estimate of that in the early game. Yes, people that overpay will leave, but google gains again in this transaction.

Re:Billboards (3, Informative)

swb (14022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785141)

But "outdoor advertising" firms make no representations that they can measure these things. You know what you're getting when you buy space on a billboard.

I worked in advertising for over a decade and your statement is totally false. These days EVERY advertising medium being pitched to a client MUST contain all kinds of analytical data backing it up, and this includes billboards. Locations, lighting, traffic patterns, etc, etc.

And I'm sure that some outdoor media companies have their own internal research demonstrating that some locations feature superior demographics (ie, this road is between the corporate HQs and the wealthy suburbs and gets seen by all the wealthy commuters).

Re:Billboards (1)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785216)

I stand corrected -- I was dumb enough to presume that just because something can't really be measured, nobody would claim to be able to measure it ;-) I'd give you mod points if I had 'em...

Re:Billboards (1)

mianne (965568) | more than 8 years ago | (#15786255)

Yes, traffic really can be measured.

Ever notice those black hoses you'll drive over occassionally on the road. It's keeping count and track of the time. Ergo, a full record of how many vehicles pass and at what time. These have existed at least some 35+ years, quite probably more, and are still used today.

It shouldn't surprise you to know that the technology has improved [intertraffic.com] since the advent of those devices. Such systems are mainly used at the government level to monitor traffic. But as in another recent thread [slashdot.org] such systems are rapidly becoming available to business and even consumer markets.

Buy 50 billboards, get 10 (1)

pacalis (970205) | more than 8 years ago | (#15786183)

Latest post aside, even if advertisers don't get driver data etc... they still expect the ad to be on the billboard. Billboard companies charge by space with an adjustment for the quality of the space. If they misrepresent the space, i.e. you buy 50 spaces and get 10 that is simple fraud.
Google charging by clicks - if they misrepresent clicks I don't see how it is any different.

click frauds from irc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15783114)

a lot of the click frauds comes for the irc
you can get things by clicking ads and search.

Thinking about stuff (2, Interesting)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783120)

I'm writing a piece of ad-blocking software myself, and I was actually thinking of incorporating a few features. Specifically, the option of whether not to download the advert at all; to download the advert without displaying it; or to download the advert without displaying it and download the linked page without displaying it. Is this last option an example of "click fraud"?

Re:Thinking about stuff (1)

jakarta-milwaukee (984725) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783732)

Probably. Besides, why would the user ever pick that last option?

Re:Thinking about stuff (3, Insightful)

outlander78 (527836) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783839)

"Probably. Besides, why would the user ever pick that last option?" (The last option being to download the ad and the ad's linked page, without displaying either.

If you really don't like ads, or especially a certain type (say, flash-based or pop-up-based ads), then the option to have the link "clicked" and cost the advertiser money without giving them any benefit might be appealing to the users of the ad-blocking software.

Personally, I like text-based meaningful ads like the ones Google provides, but can't stand the intrusive pop-ups, and would like to see a means of discouraging their use. How can following a link to a legal site be illegal?

Re:Thinking about stuff (1)

jakarta-milwaukee (984725) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783972)

Not sure, may be the intent counts. One could also ask 'If clicking on a link is legal, why is clicking on the same link 100 times is illegal?'.

In my case, I have both Google text ads and a banner ad. The banner one, I actually don't pay for the clicks, only for the 'air time.' On the other hand, for my Google text ads, I pay for the clicks.

I live in an asian country (guess which one :)), so it might be different somewhere else.

Re:Thinking about stuff (1)

jfruhlinger (470035) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784097)

Sorry to be nitpicky and jump into this discussion, but none of the behvior you're talking about re: clicks is illegal. It goes against the Google terms of service (which is why they try to stop it) and it means that Google misrepresents click-through rate to its customers if they can't account for it; the latter constitutes fraud.

In other words, it's not illegal for you to build an ad-block that does what you describe. It's illegal for Google to refer to the pageloads that result as a legitimate click-throughs when they aren't. The fact that it's really, really hard for Google to tell the difference is why they bring the hammer down on any site that they even vaguely suspect of fraud.

jf

Re:Thinking about stuff (1)

imunfair (877689) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785212)

Illegal and against the Terms of Service are two totally different things.

Here's a more solid example if you're unclear:

People can (And do) sell AOL screennames for quite a bit of money. It's against the terms of service and they'll kill your account if they catch you. It is not illegal though.

Re:Thinking about stuff (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 8 years ago | (#15786024)

How can following a link to a legal site be illegal?


The law has this concept called "intent". It's not just what you do that matters, it's why you do it.

Re:Thinking about stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15784343)

Because a site could wait until you've downloaded an ad before showing you the content you want. I've only seen a few sites do this but I'm suprised others haven't. There is an internet package package (antivirus+privacy protection+...) that some ISPs do (did?) provide which download ads AND follows the links but didn't display the ads. I assumed it was to make sure content is delivered even on sites which require ad views. It also could be because it would be easy for Yahoo! or someone display a message to all those ISP customers that "Your ISP is stealing by blocking ads". They could also stop working for those users, but they won't want to drive users away, just to make the ISP look bad. Since it's done with an ISP package, not an individual user, it is easy for Yahoo! to target the ISP.

Re:Thinking about stuff (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784492)

"Is this last option an example of "click fraud"?"

Only if you are writing the software for Google and it is used to generate revenue. It certainly isn't fraud when a user clicks on an ad and then decides not to buy. That is the risk of advertising...

i want my reparations (1)

neersign (956437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783125)

where is my money for being tricked into clicking on ads? I want $0.05 deposited into my account everytime I see a "Search for on EBAY!". Kramer, Jackie Chiles, and I will be in your office in the morning to sign the paperwork.

Ah.. (1)

ms1234 (211056) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783151)

So this is why I am asked to approve their new terms and conditions?

Academic community (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15783166)

It is interesting to see Google asked someone from the academic
community to do this study.

The most the study says is that the algorithms the Google
uses are good to detect click fraud. It does not give any clue on
how much fraud is not detected by the algorithms.

Re:Academic community (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783427)

> It does not give any clue on how much fraud is not detected by the algorithms.
Ummm... But... Oh, never mind.

Re:Academic community (2, Interesting)

bogado (25959) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783822)

This is impossible, since fraudulent clicks can be in every aspect equal to true clicks. First there is no clear definition on what is a fraudulent click, google and the target site only see an ip, a user-agent among some other http fields and a timestamp of the time that several things were loaded and clicked.

One can argue that with some statistics one can find a site that is using automated clicking by using a network of infected computers. This would show as a unusual amout of clicking, but if the bad guy knows statistic he can gradually climb his click rate, and a non-fraudulent site could have a surge of users into clicking an add when he appears in slashdot, digg, boing-boing or any other high-trafic site that links other sites.

One can clearly separate some fraudulent clicks, if many users clicks the add in less then the time to read anything on the page for instance. Other possibility is when an ip clicks on thousands and thousands of adds in a few minutes, even if those adds are from diferent people.

In short, it is always possible to catch some fraud in this model, but if the fraud is clever enought there is no way it will be caught. Remember that even users that are non-afiliated to the site that want to support it and click the add could acount to a click fraud, and this is somewhat similar to a user who happens to find an add interesting.

do not think much of click fraud detection system (5, Interesting)

dino_russ (991133) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783212)

Just a comment on their detection process. As a publisher who was terminated (and appeal denied) I do not believe in their process. I have a very active dinosaur website (approaches 1 million hits per month in school year -- probably lots of kids/teachers). it went well for one year then without notice (must be their autormated removal process) I was terminated for me or someother person associated with me generating what they classified as invalid clicks. Well I can state clearly i did not generate one invalid click, and I am only person doing website. So some other process was generating invalid clicks in their checking process. I am not sure what, whether with lots of activity I was getting those repeat 2 clicks that they filter out as invalid? Was there some spider clicking these (a competitor as I have heard about). All I maintain as a publisher I was terminated for nothing I did but was unfaily accused of doing invalid things. Does not make me very favorable to Google and their monolithic, unfair giant system. And I am happy to tell any one who asks what I think of their crummy system!!! Russ Jacobson Illinois State Geological Survey Champaign, IL

Re:do not think much of click fraud detection syst (2, Interesting)

perkr (626584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784059)

It sounds like you got a truly horrible treatment. An intersting question is whether the adword business model works at all given that fraudulent clicks can be generated for two opposite purposes and there does not seem to be a fair system to separate them: 1. Increasing website revenue, 2. Kill competitor - very efficient since there are few other advertising alternatives out there for small publishers.

Re:do not think much of click fraud detection syst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15785790)

Same thing happened to me. 6 months with google and no problems. Then comes the email out of the blue telling me my account has been terminated for invalid clicks. My appeal was met with a form letter reply telling me that *I* was not trustworthy because of false clicking. I run a rolling newsblog that only had one google panel. I assured them that I had better things to do with my time than to click on their links. End result, I removed the google code from my site. Their appeal process SUCKS. They provide ZERO assistance to the site owner. And it's quite easy for ANYONE on the internet to maliciously impact a google adsense account on any site they desire.

A good read actually - Googles Omnibus Response... (3, Informative)

us7892 (655683) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783311)

The last link is actually very good, and an easy read. Surprising for a legal document. It is "Googles Omnibus Response to Objections". I suggest giving it a read (PDF) http://googleblog.blogspot.com/pdf/objections_resp onse.pdf [blogspot.com]

It is basically a response to the objections of a grand total of 51 people in "the class". An incredibly small number of objections.

From the document:
"The assertion that Google has done nothing wrong was echoed by advertisers that opted out of the settlement."
"Unlike Retailers, Pay per click advertisers can limit the money risked for each click and for each day...Businesses should treat pay-per-click advertising like any other advertising...If it's costing more to advertise than your resulting profit, STOP ADVERTISING."

And, regarding the "click fraud detection", there is only a small portion of this document that mentions the review process by Dr. Tuzhilin. It does mention that the click fraud detection methods by Google were confirmed to be reasonable.

And finally, it was interesting to see read the jabs taken at the lawyers who brought the class action lawsuit to begin with...and the copy-cat cases from California, obviously a bunch of ambulance chasers.

No faith that bots are not charged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15784625)

I see "Slurp" (Inktomi bot) in my weblogs hitting the google ad. Then I see clicks per
day and I get charged. I have not seen in the report where it filters out something as
stupid as a bot from another company. I do see no "googlebot" clicks in the weblogs,
but other bots go right through.

Google Screws p2pnet.net out of its Share (3, Informative)

cyberscan (676092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784772)

http://wwww.p2pnet.net/ [p2pnet.net] is a website deicated to filesharing news. The owner of the website, Jon Newton, runs the website and barely breaks even. He subscibed to Google's adsense in order to generate some revenue. When a story about a filesharing lawsuit broke in the lamescream news, an article in p2pnet was referenced. This article generate a huge number of visits and therefore a much larger than usual number of adsense clicks. Rather than pay what was owed to Jon, Google accused Jon of click fraud and even showed information implying his guilt. Google continues to ignore Jon's request for information relating to this accusation and refuses to communicate with him to clear things up.

You can read about it at http://www.p2pnet.net/story/9086 [p2pnet.net] . This has happened not only to Jon Newton but also to many other small website owners. I am a Geek who used to love using Google, but now that Google has become big, it is doing what most other big companies do - screw the small guy and just walk away. Needless to say, I use alternative search engines instead.

Re:Google Screws p2pnet.net out of its Share (1)

Synic (14430) | more than 8 years ago | (#15784831)

Do tell, which search engines would those be? And do their results suck ass?

Re:Google Screws p2pnet.net out of its Share (1)

cyberscan (676092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785495)

I sometimes use www.clusty.com and www.ask.com

Yes, sometime their result do suck, but many times theyt also return pretty good results as well.
I imagine that they will grow and improve as more revenue comes in. If and when they get big and start abusing their market power, then I will support another search engine company.

Is this report for real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15785173)

I just started reading section 4, and ran across this:

"Computing devises attached to the Internet"

Spell check anyone?

And this sentence is just hillarious:

"Internet was developed long time ago."

Mr. Professor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15785378)

Is an exceptionally poor writer.

Headline redundant! (1)

IceFoot (256699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785588)

"...NYU Information Systems Professor Alexander Tuzhilin (a Professor of Information Systems at NYU)..."
----------
Redundancy Police,
Department of Redundancy Department

Speaking as someone who has worked on anti-fraud (1)

Serveert (102805) | more than 8 years ago | (#15786526)

techniques... I know what they're doing for ad sense. They look for anomolies. You have a campaign c(1) running on sites s(1)...s(n). You are site s(j) where 1=j=n. if the ctr for c(1) across all sites s(1)...s(n) deviates by a certain amount compared to the ctr of c(1) on your site s(j), you are out of there. You can improve this by evaluating more campaigns per site. They also do this in reverse, or if they don't, they should. It's simple but effective. When you complicate it like this paper suggests it will get worse IMO. In fact I think that google makes it more complicated than what I have described hence their problem. The only way around this anti-fraud technique is to inflate impressions to keep CTR reasonable. But you can crack impression inflation since it requires a huge number of impressions thus more opportunities to detect fraud (wow, 10% of the impressions are from the same IP / cookied user).

Looks like I gave out the secret sauce.
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