Have you ever stumbled across an advert that seemed to good to be true? Or how about an ad that you clicked that redirected you to a completely different website?

Google has revealed how it is fighting for the protection of users with a rather strange tool: its advertising policy.

“Ads play a key role in ensuring you have access to accurate, quality information online,” says director of porduct management at Google Scott Spencer.

“But bad ads can ruin the online experience for everyone. They promote illegal products and unrealistic offers. They can trick people into sharing personal information and infect devices with harmful software.”

For those that aren’t aware Google’s AdSense allows advertisers to upload adverts that Google will automatically serve to users that might be interested in the products or services being advertised.

Throughout 2016 Google removed 1.7 billion adverts that violated its advertising policy in one way or another. This figure is twice what it was in 2015 says the search giant.

All tricks no treat

The adverts removed include 112 million “trick to click” ads which often appear as system warnings and tricks users into downloading malware.

Google also removed 17 million ads for illegal gambling services and 68 million ads that contained healthcare violations.

Smartphones are not immune to bad ads with self-clicking ads becoming an ever more popular attack vector. This type of ad which can see users downloading apps they don’t need nor have ever heard of simply by visiting a website. Google removed more than 23 000 of these ads last year.

Ads were not the only target in Google’s sights. In cases where adverts used bait and switch tactics to fool users into clicking them – otherwise known as tabloid cloakers – Google suspended 1 300 accounts for creating these ads and 7 million ads of this type.

“Unfortunately, this type of bad ad is gaining in popularity because people are clicking on them,” writes Spencer.

“During a single sweep for tabloid cloaking in December 2016, we took down 22 cloakers that were responsible for ads seen more than 20 million times by people online in a single week,” he says.

Google recognises that this war on malicious ads is ongoing and it says it will continue to invest in ways to protect users.

We think Google deserves a big thank you for building a wall of protection that we actually want.

[Image – CC BY 2.0 Tyler Merbler]
Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.