Tag Archives: Australia

Google’s Advertising Revenue Is Under Major Threat In Australia

Earlier this month a court in Australia reversed a lower court’s decision and ruled that the ads Google allows to run on its search engine are “misleading and deceptive”. I wrote more about this in another post – click here.

After this ruling by the Federal Court, Google was caught completely off-guard (typical Google arrogance of course) and they definitely were not expecting it to go in that direction. It also extremely worries Google and could set a threatening precedent to their business model. Google is concerned that the Australian court’s decision could be copied by other courts in different countries and it will hurt their bottom line. Google’s ad revenue is worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Australia alone.

Google will fight the court’s decision tooth and nail to avoid this from spreading and to make sure their money-making machine is protected. The company has less than 14 days to appeal the decision to a High Court. What Google is most concerned about is protecting their money and not making sure that their users are protected. This isn’t the first time that the company has gotten themselves in deep trouble over their ad business. The US government forced Google to pay up half a billion dollars for aiding and abetting a con artist commit his crimes (I will post an update story on this soon ,which I forgot to post).

The point is that Google has repeatedly shown that they are willing to accept money from every advertiser, every company, and even criminals if they can get away with it. They obviously have very little ethics and I sure wouldn’t trust them. Be careful clicking on those ads.

This Australian legal battle against Google is a very interesting one to watch.

ABC News in Australia did a fantastic report on this story. The video is below and if you want to read the transcript, you can go to their website – click here

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Scam Alert: Why You Shouldn’t Blindly Trust Google

Tow truck tows a car after a collision with a ...

Yesterday I published a post informing you about the latest legal trouble for Google. An Australian court found that Google’s ads are “misleading and deceptive”. You can catch up on that post by clicking here.

Today, a reporter for MyNorthwest.com published an article warning Google users about the potential scams they can fall victim to if they are not careful. The article titled “Scam Alert: Why you shouldn’t blindly trust Google” focuses on a woman who was taken advantage of by an unethical towing company.

The woman, Christina Youk, got a flat tire on a dark and rainy evening. She was really frustrated and desperately wanted to get home. She got out her smartphone and Google searched the terms “tow truck”. Google returned search results to her which included their “sponsored ads”. The top ad Google gave her was for a company calling itself West Coast Towing. The company’s ad claims it offers 24/7 service and a speedy 15 minutes response. It also included a toll-free number, which Ms. Youk dialed.

Over two hours later, two men and a woman finally show up to help Ms. Youk. They present her with a handwritten invoice with all sorts of ridiculous exorbitant charges. Ms. Youk was shocked by it because it totaled $580 and she never paid anything like that before to tow her car. But she was desperate and cold so she reluctantly agreed to pay. The good thing is that she later called her credit card company and had the charges canceled.

Think twice before clicking on one of Google’s ads – it might lead you to get scammed or worse.

Read more – click here

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Australian Federal Court: Google’s Ads Are “Misleading And Deceptive”

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

An Australian court said that Google engages in “misleading and deceptive” conduct because of the ads it chooses to display. Google was sued last year for misleading its users but a lower court didn’t think Google was liable for what its advertisers do and ruled in favor of Google.

But The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) appealed this decision in the Federal Court and won. This is a major defeat for Google who thought it could get away scot-free but now has to comply with this new ruling.

The issue involves advertisers buying keywords and placing ads using the name of a major competitor. So when a Google search engine user clicked on an ad thinking they were going to be directed to the website of a particular travel agency, they would actually be redirected to its competitor’s website. Google’s AdWords program permitted all sorts of companies to engage in this deceptive act to trick users. These companies bought search terms that returned Google’s sponsored results and redirected users to websites of rival companies.

For example, a company called CarSales bought search terms and ad space from Google. The company’s ad included this headline in their advertisement: “Honda.com.au”. When Google users clicked on that ad they thought they were going to Honda’s website but they were actually redirected to CarSales’ website.

The ACCC’s Chairman, Rod Sims, said in a statement:

“The ACCC brought this appeal because it raises very important issues as to the role of search engine providers as publishers of paid content in the online age,” Sims said. “This is an important outcome because it makes it clear that Google and other search engine providers which use similar technology to Google will be directly accountable for misleading or deceptive paid search results”

Google is upset and “disappointed” by the court’s decision. Obviously, it believes that it’s completely innocent *yawn*. Google is throwing its advertisers under the bus by claiming that it is totally their fault for misleading customers – Google claims that it just gives these advertisers the platform to show their ads and isn’t involved any further.

Yeah, whatever…

The Federal Court is forcing Google to pay the ACCC’s court costs and Google must implement a compliance program.

For more information:

The Register, “Google ads ‘misleading and deceptive’” – click here

The Australian, “Google ads ruling hands win to watchdog” – click here

CNET, “Google charged with ‘deceptive’ conduct in search ads” – click here

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Australians Do Not Think It’s A G’Day For Internet Privacy

English: Australian flag seen flying in Toowoo...

Last week I published a post here about the Pew survey which found that the vast majority of Internet users hate targeted ads and are very concerned about their privacy. Well, if you thought that survey wasn’t enough, there is a new one out this week.

This time it’s from Australia and the survey results are very similar. Australians are very concerned about their privacy on the Internet – many of them feel that they are in the dark about what Internet companies know about them and what they’re doing with their personal data.

The survey was conducted for the University of Queensland by Dr. Mark Andrejevic between November 17 and December 14, 2011. Keep in mind that Google announced its plan to launch its more intrusive privacy policy in late January of this year.

Australians are overwhelmingly in favor of more privacy legal rights and they want effective regulations to help them safeguard their personal data from Internet companies that want to steal their data. More than 90% of them support regulations that would allow them to control how their personal data is captured and used – and they also want collection of data to be completely transparent. If Internet companies, such as Google, are going to collect personal data about users then they need to collect only absolutely necessary data – nothing more. Many of these companies harvest a lot of data and keep it for the future until they can find a way to monetize it. Australians also want an opt-out option of data harvesting – something Google has flat-out refused to do. Google said that if users don’t like how the company is doing business, they can hit the road and not use any of their services. Dr. Andrejevic said:

“In the online world, users are increasingly being asked to consent to the collection of detailed, personal information in exchange for access to online services. But most of us have very little idea about what information is being collected and how it’s being used so we cannot provide informed consent”

 Australians support something like the European “right to be forgotten”, which will allow Internet users to request their personal data be permanently deleted from company servers. “Deleted” doesn’t mean companies can simply just transfer that data to another file on their servers, they will be legally required to wipe that information off their system for good. Right now, Google and other Internet companies don’t respect this right to be forgotten. Even though Europe has strong laws to help protect their people, many of these companies have ignored these laws – especially companies that aren’t based in Europe.  However, the EU announced a major revision to its laws and they’re going to make it tougher. It will be much more difficult for Google to ignore EU laws.

Dr. Andrejevic said that this issue of personal data and Internet privacy isn’t going away any time soon. As more of us spend more time on the Internet, there is going to be a greater need for stronger protection. Right now though, there is still a great imbalance and secrecy surrounding how companies like Google operates. Google knows so much about us but we know very little about Google.

The survey found that 56% of Australians do not approve of targeted ads based on personal information. A larger majority – 64% – do not approve of censorship of their searches (or “personalized” search) based on their personal information.

75% of respondents said they wanted to know how companies collect their personal data and in what ways they use it. If they felt too suspicious and wanted to avoid the collection of personal data, 69% of Australians refused to go on a website or application because it collected too much information.

97% of Australians said they should be allowed to take legal action against companies like Google in the case of serious breaches of their privacy.

“The issue of personal information is likely to increase in importance as more people spend more of their time using devices and applications which capture ever more detailed information about their lives, their activities, and their communications, Dr. Andrejevic said”

It’s abundantly clear that Australians care very much about their online privacy. Let’s hope that Australian officials get the message and will help protect the rights of their people. Companies like Google shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever it wants on the Web. It’s time to revisit Australian privacy law.

Dr. Andrejevic will present his findings at a public lecture at University of Queensland Art Museum on Thursday April 26th, 2012.

For more information:

University of Queensland – click here

The Register, “90% of AU net users want ‘do not track’” – click here

BBC, “Do you have the right to be forgotten online?” – click here

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International Group Of Privacy Commissioners Express Concern Over Google’s New Privacy Policy

The Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) wrote a letter to Google expressing their concern over Google’s new more intrusive privacy policy, which many believe means that users have no privacy at all anymore.  The group is made up of member states including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Korea.

The privacy commissioners from all the member states have great doubt about the security of people’s personal data in the hands of Google. The company is collecting more data about its users than ever before by combining personal information from all its products and services. This will make it easier for Google to figure you out and ultimately, among other things, sell that information to advertisers for huge profits.

“…combining personal information from across different services has the potential to significantly impact on the privacy of individuals. The group is also concerned that, in condensing and simplifying the privacy policies, important details may have been lost.”

 The APPA wants Google to make it easier for users to find out what personal information the company has of them and they want all personal information to be available to users. Everything Google knows about you should be made aware to you and you then should be allowed to permanently delete it if you so choose. The APPA is also concerned about the risk Google is putting vulnerable minority groups through by collecting sensitive data about them. Google has the potential to collect information about your age, address, name, sexual orientation, religion, politics, race, etc. The company knows too much and this is troubling.

The APPA also pointed out when Google destroyed over 60 different privacy policy from all their services and reduced it to one – they ended up oversimplifying their privacy policy. There is good simplification that allows users to understand a privacy policy better, and then there is bad simplification that actually makes the privacy policy more ambiguous. We don’t know Google’s true intentions or what exactly they mean.

For example, Google’s old privacy policy for their photo-sharing website, Picasa, stated that data would be deleted within 60 days of a user’s request. This detail no longer exists in Google’s new privacy policy. Google admits to collecting “sensitive” personal information – but nobody really knows how they handle that personal information. The APPA has a problem with this.

The letter from the APPA to Google was signed by Timothy Pilgrim, the Australian Privacy Commissioner.  A day after the letter was sent, Google responded to it. However, it did nothing to ease concerns and New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner, Marie Shroff, was annoyed that Google neglected to offer complete answers. This criticism is similar to what a US congresswoman, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, said about Google after she grilled two company executives at a congressional committee hearing last month. The congresswoman said that Google was not “forthcoming” with answers and that she was left with even more concerns. Obviously, Google has a problem telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

To read the APPA’s full letter to Google – click here

For more information:

Stuff.co.nz, “Heat turned up on search giant” – click here

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Australian Man Refused To Let Google Bully Him

 Google has become a very powerful company over the very short 14 years it’s existed (although it is now looking like it’s weakening due to strong competition from companies like Facebook). All this power can get to one’s head and make them think that they are invisible. Power can actually change people and it can change companies. Google was once an idealistic company that wanted to be different from all the other companies when it first came to the scene. Google did not want to follow traditional ways of doing things and they even had an unofficial motto, which was “don’t be evil”. However, Google is not the same company it was when it first started. It got more powerful, it’s loaded with cash (by selling your private information to advertisers), and its priorities changed.

With so much power, Google thinks it can bully the weaker man or woman into submission and arbitrarily punish or reward people. It is very difficult to fight such a powerful company and it can be intimidating if you do not know how to go about rectifying wrongful treatment by Google against you. However, one man in Australia was not going to let Google walk all over him. He fought the Goliath of a company and won!

As I explained in previous posts, Google has an AdSense program which lets website owners put Google advertisements on their website. The money that comes from people clicking on those ads is divided between Google and the website owner. Google makes billions of dollars from this program and the AdSense advertisements apparently cover 70% of the Internet.

In September 2011, Mark Bowyer’s two year old travel website, Rusty Compass, which advices people travelling to Asia, had his AdSense account terminated by Google. Google claimed that his website ”posed a risk of generating invalid activity”, which means that the clicks on the advertisements on his site were not legitimate. Google was accusing him of fraud and dishonestly. To make matters worse, after Google’s serious accusations and termination against Mr. Bowyer, Google would not let him appeal the decision nor did the company provide him any evidence they had against him.

Needless to say, Mr. Bowyer was devastated by Google’s hurtful actions against him and his small Internet company – he called it a ”reputational slur”. For four months he was left in the dark about what happened and Google would not do anything about it. Mr. Bowyer knew that Google was just going to keep ignoring him, and while most people would have just given up at this point, Mr. Bowyer was not going to let Google bully him. In December 2011 he filed a complaint with the New South Wales Fair Trading, which later investigated Google. After the investigation by Fair Trading, Google was forced to reinstate Mr. Bowyer’s account and offer him compensation. A Fair Trading spokeswoman said

 ”full redress was provided to the consumer following our intervention”.

Bravo to Mark Bowyer for not letting Google bully him around. This should serve as an example to others who are in similar situations as Mr. Bowyer, that you do not have to let Google treat you that way. What happened to Mr. Bowyer is not rare, it happens quite often. Google shows little to no respect to its advertising “partners” (as the Google likes to call them).

As long as Google can use you like some sort of parasite to latch onto your site to gain advertising money from you, that is all that really matters to them. They will suck you dry and when they are done with you they will dispose of you like you never had a relationship together.

Do not let Google victimize you. Speak out against the company if you have been wronged. You have got to speak up against abuse or it will never be fixed.

The story appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, you can read the article they published today by clicking here

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