Posts tagged ‘Doubleclick’


Google collects more enemies—we haven’t been critical enough of it

05.09.2017

My complaints about Google over the years—and the battles I’ve had with them between 2009 and 2014—are a matter of record on this blog. It appears that Google has been making enemies who are much more important than me, and in this blog post I don’t mean the European Union, who found that the big G had been abusing its monopoly powers by giving its own properties priority placement in its own search results. (The EU, incidentally, had the balls to fine Google €2,420 million, or 2·5 per cent of Google’s revenues, unlike various US states’ attorneys-general a few years ago, who hit them with a $17 million bill, or four hours’ income for Google.)
   It’s Jon von Tetzchner, the co-founder and CEO of Vivaldi, who blogged on Monday how Google hasn’t been able to ‘resist the misuse of power.’
   Von Tetzchner was formerly at Opera, so he has had a lot of time in the tech world. Opera has been around longer than Google, and it was the first browser to incorporate Google search.
   As you’ve read over the years, I’ve reported on Google’s privacy breaches, its false accusations of malware on our sites, its favouring big sites over little ones in News, and (second-hand) the hacking of Iphones to gather user data. Google tax-dodging, meanwhile, has been reported elsewhere.
   It appears Google suspended Vivaldi’s Adwords campaigns without warning, and the timing is very suspicious.
   Right after von Tetzchner’s thoughts on Google’s data-gathering were published in Wired, all of Vivaldi’s Google Adwords campaigns were suspended, and Google’s explanations were vague, unreasonable and contradictory.
   Recently there were also revelations that Google had pressured a think-tank to fire someone critical of the company, according to The New York Times. Barry Lynn, ousted from the New America Foundation for praising the EU’s fine, accused the Foundation for placing Google’s money (it donates millions) ahead of its own integrity. Google denies the charge. He’s since set up Citizens Against Monopoly.
   It’s taken over half a decade for certain quarters to wake up to some of the things I’ve been warning people about. Not that long ago, the press was still praising Google Plus as a Facebook-killer, something I noted from the beginning would be a bad idea. It seems the EU’s courage in fining Google has been the turning point in forcing some to open their eyes. Until then, people were all too willing to drink the Google Kool-Aid.
   And we should be aware of what powerful companies like Google are doing.
   Two decades ago, my colleague Wally Olins wrote Trading Identities: Why Countries and Companies Are Taking on Each Other’s Roles. There, he noted that corporations were adopting behaviours of nations and vice versa. Companies needed to get more involved in social responsibility as they became more powerful. We are in an era where there are powerful companies that exert massive influences over our lives, yet they are so dominant that they don’t really care whether they are seen as a caring player or not. Google clearly doesn’t in its pettiness over allegedly targeting Vivaldi, and Facebook doesn’t as it gathers data and falsely accuses its own users of having malware on their machines.
   On September 1, my colleague Euan Semple wrote, ‘As tools and services provided by companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon become key parts of the infrastructure of our lives they, and their respective Chief Executives, exert increasing influence on society.
   ‘How we see ourselves individually and collectively is shaped by their products. Our ability to do things is in our hands but their control. How we educate ourselves and understand the world is steered by them. How we stay healthy, get from one place to another, and even feed and clothe ourselves is each day more dependent on them.
   ‘We used to rely on our governments to ensure the provision of these critical aspects of our lives. Our governments are out of their depth and floundering.
   ‘Are we transitioning from the nation state to some other way of maintaining and supporting our societies? How do we feel about this? Is it inevitable? Could we stop it even if we wanted?’
   The last paragraph takes us beyond the scope of this blog post, but we should be as critical of these companies as we are of our (and others’) governments, and, the European Commission excepting, I don’t think we’re taking their actions quite seriously enough.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, marketing, media, social responsibility, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


Does Google advertising continue to track you after opting out?

03.07.2014

Google cookies

Consistently, for the last several weeks, the ads I would see on YouTube have been for Hyundai. I didn’t think much of it, other than Hyundai going through an advertising blitz.
   After uncovering Google’s outright deceptions regarding its former Ads Preferences Manager, where the company promised not to track people when they opted out—but began tracking people within 24 hours after they opted out—I have been careful about the cookies on my system, especially from Google’s subsidiary, Doubleclick. Not only did I opt out of Google ads, after opting out, I blocked the Doubleclick cookie, which, logically, should mean that Google should not know my advertising preferences. All googleadservices.com cookies are also blocked. The fact that car advertising was creeping in was coincidental, I thought.
   Today, Holden advertised its Colorado on my YouTube visit, and I got suspicious.
   I know Google Plus tracks us—opting out of having your searches monitored also does nothing, incidentally—and the minute I removed all Google cookies, my automotive advertising on YouTube ceased. The first ad was Corona beer, and the second and third were Air New Zealand. Other videos—and I watched 10 to test—had no ads. No more Hyundais.
   So Google, despite all the opt-out mechanisms, and despite my being very careful about what cookies are being allowed on my system, may still be tracking my advertising preferences. It wouldn’t be the first time Google has been caught illegally and deceptively monitoring users after opt-outs or who have tighter browser privacy settings (using the Google Plus One button, which is how I suspect they are doing it). As I uncover more, I’ll update this blog.

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Posted in cars, internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


How brands fool us

13.04.2013

The Google experience over the last week—and I can say ‘week’ because there were still a few browsers showing blocks yesterday—reminds me of how brands can be resilient.
   First, I know it’s hard for most people to believe that Google is so incompetent—or even downright corrupt, when it came to its bypassing Safari users’ preferences and using Doubleclick to do it (but we already know how Doubleclick bypassed every browser a couple of years ago). People rely on Google, Google Docs, Google Image Search, or any of its other products. But there’s something to be said for a well communicated slogan, ‘Don’t be evil.’ Those who work in computing, or those who have experienced the negative side of the company, know otherwise. But, to most people, guys like me documenting the bad side are shit-stirrers—until they begin experiencing the same.
   Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s OK for a small publication to get blacklisted, or people tracked on the internet despite their requests not to be. But I don’t think we can let these companies off quite so easily, because there is something rotten in a lot of its conduct.
   By the same token, maybe it doesn’t matter that we can’t easily buy a regularly priced orange juice from a New Zealand-owned company in our own supermarkets. Most, if not all, of that sector is owned by the Japanese or the Americans. We haven’t encouraged domestic enterprises to be global players, excepting the obvious ones such as Fonterra.
   However, most people don’t notice it, because brands have shielded it. The ones we buy most started in this country, by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board.
   And like the National Bank, which hasn’t been New Zealand-owned for decades, people are happy to believe they are local. It was only when the National Bank changed its name to ANZ, the parent company, that some consumers balked and left—even though it was owned and run by ANZ for the good part of the past decade.
   Or we like to think that Holden is Australian when a good part of the range is designed and built in Korea by what used to be Daewoo—and brand that died out here in 2003. Holden hasn’t been Australian since the 1930s, when it became part of GM—an American company. However, for years it had the slogan, ‘Australia’s own car,’ but even the 48-215, the ur-Holden, was American-financed and developed along Oldsmobile lines.
   Similarly, Lemon & Paeroa has been, for a generation, American.
   Maybe it’s my own biases here, but I like seeing a strong New Zealand, with strong, Kiwi-owned firms having the nous and the strength to take on the big players at a global level.
   We can out-think the competition, so while we might not have the finances, we often have the know-how, that can grow if we are given the right opportunities and the right exposure. And, as we’ve seen, the right brands that can enter other markets and be aspirational, whether they play on their country of origin or not.
   Stripping away one of the layers when it comes to ownership might get us thinking about which are the locally owned firms—and which ones we want to support if we, too, agree that our own lot are better and should be stronger.
   And when it came to Google, it’s important to know that it has it in for the little guy. It’s less responsive, and it will fence with you until you can bring a bigger party to the table who might risk damaging its informal, well maintained and largely illusionary corporate motto.
   We only had Blogger doing the right thing when we piggy-backed off John Hempton having his blog unjustifiably deleted by Google, and the bad press it got via Reuter’s Felix Salmon on that occasion.
   We only had Google’s Ads Preferences Manager doing the right thing when we had the Network Advertising Initiative involved.
   Google only stopped tracking Iphone users using a hack via Doubleclick (I would classify it malware, thank you) on Safari when the Murdoch Press busted it.
   That’s the hat-trick right there. Something about the culture needs to change. It’s obviously not transparent.
   I don’t know what had Google lift the boycott after six days but we know it cleans itself up considerably more quickly when it has accidentally blacklisted The New York Times or its own YouTube. One thought I had is that the notion that Google re-evaluates your site in five hours is false. Even on the last analysis it did after I resubmitted Lucire took at least 16 hours, and that the whole matter took six days.
   But it should be a matter of concern for small businesses, especially in a country with a lot of SMEs, because Google will ride rough-shod over them based on its own faulty analyses. Reality shows that it happens, and when it does happen, you haven’t much recourse—unless you can find a lever to give it really bad publicity.
   We weren’t far off from issuing a press statement, and the one-week mark was the trigger. Others might not be so patient.
   If we had done that, I wonder if it would help people see more of the reality.
   Or should we support other search engines such as Duck Duck Go instead, and help the little guy out-think the big guys? Should there be a Kiwi search engine that actually doesn’t do evil?
   Or do we need to grow or work with some bigger firms here to prevent us being bullied by Google’s, and others’, incompetence?

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 5 Comments »


Google, hacks, privacy breaches, and ad codes: there’s a pattern emerging here

11.04.2013

In all my recent posts, I’ve stopped short of saying that Google hacked us, but that the code inserted had Google’s name all over it.
   But if Google was party to or had profited from hacking, then it wouldn’t be the first time, right?
   Remember when Google hacked the Safari browser to track Iphone users?
   That time, it used a trick inside its Doubleclick ad code to fool the Safari browser, so that it provided tracking data back to Google and related ad networks, even when users had opted out of being tracked.
   But we all know about how opting out does not mean opting out when it comes to Google. We know how Google did not respect your privacy when it came to advertising in the case that was exposed on this blog in 2011, and lied about what its Ads Preferences Manager’s opt-out feature did.
   The warning signs were all there in the early 2010s, and if any code should be classed as malicious, it’s Doubleclick’s. I bet Google’s malware bots never picked up those as being malicious in 2012 when they were sending Apple Iphone data back to the company.
   Despite all this, a lot of people still believe that Google’s culture is ‘Don’t be evil.’ The way I see it: it takes quite a bit of effort to engage in these techniques.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


Google can’t find any more problematic pages, yet continues blacklisting

08.04.2013

Google continues to throw up big red flags to anyone visiting Lucire’s website today, although its own Webmaster Tools page reveals that it has not found any problems since Saturday:

   Given that we had sewn up the server on Saturday, and deleted every instance of the hack, then Webmaster Tools’ inability to find dodgy pages is no surprise.
   However, Google’s continued insistence that something is wrong is damaging to our reputation, and it’s now affecting the sites of some of the team who linked to us. Those using its Chrome browser are getting the biggest warnings of all, if our feedback is accurate.
   It’s not the first time we’ve had to battle Google over things like this: as those of you who remember the battle with Blogger know, Google people can be very stubborn. That last time, we gave a link proving the Google support guy was wrong and his solution was just to refuse to look at it.
   But even this time, the code that Google identifies as being problematic is not: it’s straight OpenX code, which they have had no trouble with in the past. I’ve gone and replaced some of it with regenerated OpenX code that differs only with the random number being generated, which in theory should make no difference. You never know, and it’s better than sitting around and doing nothing.
   And since Google has cleared the ad server where the hack took place, it’s crazy that it continues to block sites that simply have links to a clean server.
   With Autocade, it now just says we have problems but refuses to identify just what they are.
   The greatest irony is that our ad code often links to a Google Doubleclick ad, although, as revealed yesterday, Google’s not too fussed if third-party advertisers using Doubleclick host malware. They make money, the third party makes money, and the only people who lose are the honest folks like us.
   It’ll be Monday 9 a.m. on the US west coast soon, so let’s hope things get back to normal.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, publishing, USA | 2 Comments »


Google clears our ad server of any malicious code, but continues to block our sites

06.04.2013

All of the sites that carry advertising from our ad server (ads.jyanet.com) were blacklisted by Google yesterday, including this one. In fact, Google still blacklists them, despite Google and Stop Badware clearing the server of any problems.
   Here’s the kicker: the code that was injected by hackers appears to be Google Adsense code. If true, this means that Google provides hackers with code, hackers use the code, Google blacklists the sites. Have a look below to see if that’s the case.
   I remember that any schmuck can get a Google Adsense account, so they aren’t choosy. (I applied for one many years ago, which I had for six months. Believe me, it was really easy.)
   If it is Google Adsense, it wouldn’t be the first time their own code was dodgy. There had been instances where McAfee, on my computer, blocked ads on one of our sites and, when investigated, those ads turned out to be Doubleclick ones, i.e. they were from Google’s own ad network. Very big sites get targeted—unfortunately, very big sites appear to get all-clears from big companies like Google rapidly (because they affect their bottom line more?).
   Whatever the source, the hackers used their code and decided to piggyback off legitimate ad-serving websites, including ours. We fixed the vulnerability that led to this within hours of learning about it, but, as usual, we’re disappointed that Google and Stop Badware haven’t caught up after over 24 hours that things are sorted.
   I’ve pasted the warning from Google below, a shot of our OpenX installation describing the code (it looks like Google Adsense to me—is it? Or is it just based on parameters of their code so the hackers’ Adsense account profits from the activity?) and a screen shot of where the dodgy stuff Google believes it came from, namely a domain owned by one William Oster in New York. (These are from my Tumblog.) [Note: Mr Oster might not even know about this and that his OpenX installation was the victim of the same hack. The hackers could well have placed the malware on his server and spread things from there.]

   I’d like the solution to be tougher guidelines on everyday users getting Adsense accounts. Let’s hope things are harder today than they were in the 2000s. There are a lot of honest people using Adsense, so it’s fine to argue that it’s unfair to affect everyone because of a few bad eggs. Every ad network needs to be more stringent on who can advertise, too.
   Most of the larger, legitimate ad networks that I know of make things stricter, and your site has to have proven traffic and a decent track record before they’ll let their ads be shown on them.
   My guess is that Google isn’t about to change its policies because it does very well from casting its net far and wide. The last I looked, the ad business was worth US$3,600 million to them.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, publishing, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


Someone’s doing something right inside Google

01.04.2011

The troubles with Google that I’ve faced—privacy breaches, Ads Preferences Manager not honouring its claims, fighting for six months on behalf of a friend over a deleted Blogger blog, Chrome being buggy (but not nearly as badly as IE9), phantom entries in my Google dashboard, unanswered messages—would suggest, to anyone studying business or a graduate from B-school, that there is something very, very rotten inside the company. It’s being evil.
   Judging by an article I linked yesterday from Techcrunch, there probably is something rotten.
   It’s sad to see that Techcrunch didn’t have the ethics to keep an off-the-record comment off the record—it even plays an answerphone message on its site, which I am sure its speaker never intended for broadcast—but it does make an interesting guess of the company’s internal problems.
   I’ve heard of similar things second-hand and, in at least one case, first-hand, but this one illustrates that the problems could be at quite a senior level.
   With all the internal politicking going on, a few people are doing their jobs correctly, and honouring Google’s commitment to its users. In 2010, I named Rick Klau at Blogger as being one of them. I reckon the other has to be Matt Cutts, whose initiative to cut down content mills and Google-spam I applauded some weeks ago as being one of the company’s right moves.
   Matt has done his job so well that it has cut down even Google’s own content mill, the Google Places site.
   He deserves even more applause because he’s not singling out his own employers for special treatment, which means, as far as the rest of us are concerned, we face a level playing field getting on the site.
   He’s even stated, ‘Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google.’
   What is interesting is that it has pissed off certain people inside Google, who have become accustomed to the search engine biasing results toward itself—something it has admitted on some occasions, contradicting its stated policy on other occasions. Élitism much?
   Among the content mills Matt’s team has targeted includes the sites of Demand Media, who I had a run-in with as well over contradictory terms and conditions and the company’s refusal to respond. (In fact, it continued to pester me to integrate an account I had with a firm it had acquired even though, legally, under its own terms, I could not.)
   Reading the Techcrunch piece, Matt Cutts is a hero for fairness and for running things exactly the way netizens expect. Some commenters agree. He might even be the guy who saves Google from being an élitist, unethical monster. He’s done exactly what he set out to do, and Google needs to realize that if it is to recover any mana for its misdeeds of the past few years, it has to clean its own doorstep first.
   If the article is correct, other Google senior staff—Nikesh Arora, Marissa Mayer (who has already revealed that Google publishes biased results)—are part of the problem, and why Google is so desperate to violate its own stated policies repeatedly.
   And if that off-the-record comment on Techcrunch is accurate, then Marissa Mayer probably believes that users are stupid. Way to earn that goodwill, Marissa.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, politics, publishing, technology, USA | 4 Comments »