Friday, October 21, 2022

Google Ads’ Dark Money

Nandini Jammi and Claire Atkin:

Why are there so many mystery accounts on Google’s Ad Network? Because Google has a long-standing practice of letting publishers monetize their websites without revealing their identity to advertisers. And there are a lot of people out there who want to anonymously collect free money from the biggest ATM in the world.


But not all sellers are like Condé Nast, which maintains a small family of websites. Some Sellers are ad exchanges themselves, with massive publisher networks of their own. For example, Amazon maintains Seller accounts with Google. This allows Amazon to plug its own massive network of publishers into Google’s ad network.


Once upon a time, even Google agreed this was sketchy. In 2017, Google and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) invented a new standard designed to help advertisers track their transactions.


The only tool Google gives advertisers today to manage these incredibly significant liabilities is... blocklists (or exclusion lists). But blocklists only enable you to block domains — not seller accounts. And the bad guys learned how to evade domain blocklists a long time ago.

Via Nick Heer:

Advertisers should clearly be allowed to say who they want to sell ads to, not just which domains they appear on. And, as Jammi and Atkin report, there are resellers and exchanges all down the chain. All of them should be compliant as well to be permitted to be a part of Google’s ad network.

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