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Google has no ethics

27 May 2021

I was searching online for inspiration this morning and I spotted a small banner ad served up by Google's ad network.

I could tell immediately that this ad was for a scam product. Indeed, when I clicked on the banner I was taken to a website flogging one of those crappy devices that they claim "Cuts Your Power Bill By Up To 90%".

These devices almost always contain a thumping great capacitor and occasionally some lightweight circuitry that simply illuminates an LED to make you think it's doing something.

The fake-science claim is that the capacitor compensates for the bad power-factor (PF) of many inductive loads (such as motors, etc) to correct the phase match between voltage and current.

Whilst this might have worked many years ago with crude power-metering equipment, today's meters are far more capable of accurately measuring "true power" and aren't upset by loads with a bad PF.

In reality, this device is a total scam.

So why does Google even allow such ads on its advertising network?

Well their answer is, of course, we don't have time to check each ad for accuracy, honesty, etc.

Although "bots" (aka AI) can take care of the basics, determining whether a particular product is a fraud or not is still beyond the capabilities of machine-learning technology and requires a "real person" to be involved.

No problem. Since Google *knows* this to be the case, I figured they'd provide an easy mechanism for people to report such fraudulent ads... right?

After all, if they were a truly ethical company, rather than one that was simply prepared to take anyone's money even if they're advertising scammy products, that'd be the honest and reasonable thing to do.

So I clicked on the little "info" portion of the ad-banner and indeed, I was offered a chance to "send feedback" to Google. Woohoo... maybe I was wrong about Google after all.

Sadly, I wasn't wrong... I was dead right.

The only responses allowed were:

  • Ad covered content
  • I've seen this ad before
  • Inappropriate

and something else I can't remember. What's more, because I already accessed this little menu several times (to get the list), it now no longer shows, on any Google ads I'm shown. Apparently Google doesn't want to hear from me at all now in respect to problems I might have with its advertising.

Well perhaps that's not strictly true... now when I click on the little "info" link I get just two options:

  • stop seeing this ad
  • why this ad?

I'm no longer offered the chance to provide "send feedback", neither on the original ad nor any subsiquent ads served up by Google.

However, if I click on "why this ad" I am taken to a page where I am able to "report" the advertisment. Why hide such a crucial feature so deeply within the system? Why not offer the chance to report fraudulent ads right there -- the very first time someone sees them?

Of course you might think that at least the ad's been reported and will be dealt with by someone at Google who'll pull it.

Dream on!

The fact that this *doesn't* happen and, instead, Google keeps showing these scammy ads and raking in the money the advertiser pays for them becomes very obvious when you read the comments on this video:

In fact, that's the very reason I made that video... because even after a huge number of complaints from hundreds (if not thousands) of people, Google kept serving up the same ad to happless victims for months afterwards.

So, when you realise Google has an almost total lack of ethics (they actually fired people on the ethics team) yet hold an incredible amount of information on almost everyone that uses the internet -- I think we have a problem, a huge problem!

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