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Google has allowed a case against a click-fraudster to be dismissed, amid speculation that the search engine giant was reluctant to open up its click fraud procedures for public scrutiny.

The charges against Michael Anthony Bradley, who attempted to extort $150,000 from the company by threatening to generate millions of false clicks through his 'Google Clique' software, were dropped on November 22.

Business Week speculates that Google faced a dilemma between revealing information about its click fraud processes and prosecuting Bradley, and keeping its secrets, meaning Bradley would get off scot-free.

It would appear that Google has chosen to keep its secrets, which carries with it the risk that future fraudsters may be encouraged, and advertisers’ confidence in Google’s anti-click fraud system may be dented. After all, advertisers are the ones who are paying for click fraud.

The scale of click fraud is difficult to quantify, though some estimates believe it may constitute more than 20% of clicks in some sectors. Google believes that such estimates are alarmist, and has played down the seriousness of the issue, claiming market forces will correct the problem.

Google closely guards the ways in which it deals with click fraud, stating that to release such information could aid would-be fraudsters. This sounds similar to the noises made by ISPs who do not tell spammers that they are spamming.

But this sort of secrecy presents a problem for paid-search marketers, as they would like to see more transparency and have better tools to deal with the problem, such as information on IP addresses to help them identify multiple clicks.

This case tells us that Google is keeping its cards close to its chest for a reason, which could be linked to the fear of giving fraudsters (or even competitors) valuable information, or possibly on concerns about opening itself up for further legal action.

Of course none of this sort of thing happens in an offline advertising world, where advertisers cannot accurately measure response, nor do they pay on the basis of response, nor do they demand the same levels of transparency that are expected on online media. And yet TV media buyers keep buying up those TV ads...

Further Reading:
Does keyword deflation add up to click fraud?

Graham Charlton

Published 6 December, 2006 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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