back to article Google nuked tech support ads to kill off scammers. OK. It also blew away legit repair shops. Not OK at all

With America's trade watchdog on Tuesday hosting a workshop in Washington DC on restrictions that limit the feasibility of repair devices, hardware rehab forum iFixit has penned an open letter to the FTC to complain about Google's ad policies that hinder the mending of machines. Last August, the Chocolate Factory announced …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    More Google algorithmic bollocks

    The Oompa Loompas were so proud they managed differentiate computer repair ads from the rest that they pressed the ban button forgetting that there are actual real computer repair stores paying them real money to place real computer repair ads.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: More Google algorithmic bollocks

      Well of course, they have to automate it and despite all the lofty claims 'AI' is the first but definitely isn't the second.

      I mean, you don't expect them to hire actual humans to oversee the decisions made by machines and overrule them when they screw up, do you? To their engineers who believe everything is an algorithm, that would be admitting failure.

      1. stiine Bronze badge

        Re: More Google algorithmic bollocks

        What's your point?

  2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Stop

    Thanks for Nothing

    That blasted (Oompa Loompa) song from Willy Wonka is in my head now.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Thanks for Nothing

      Just to be clear, is that this one or this one?

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Thanks for Nothing

        Both, in rotation.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tech Support Scammers

    "Earley accused Google of implementing an unfair policy because the web giant allows ads from Geek Squad, a third-party repair service, while denying ads to a small business that actually builds and sells its own line of custom computers for its local market."

    IMHO the Geek Squad and their ilk are ALL tech support scammers.

    And wasn't Office Max and Office Depot recently fined for using software that tricked victims into believing their computers were infected with malware?

    https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/03/office-depot-tech-support-firm-will-pay-35-million-settle-ftc

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Tech Support Scammers

      Yes. When I think "tech support scam", the very first thing that comes to my mind is the Geek Squad.

  4. IGotOut

    Doesn't surprise me

    Having dealt with the Ad team at Google, Arse and Elbows do spring to mind.

  5. tfewster Silver badge

    Way to miss the point, Google. They could easily verify an ad is linked to a bricks-and-mortar address (or even a reputable website/trader).

    That said, I won't be disabling ublock/NoScript until the advertising industry starts taking responsibility for what it's trying to shove down my pipe. And it looks like that day is coming - if Google is vetting ads, surely it bears some liability for those it "approves"?

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Ah, the glories of a world run for and by advertisers

      And it looks like that day is coming ...

      Will that be before or after the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together ...?

      Google will doubtless make some fumbling attempts to police their advertisers. But nothing that will significantly affect the advertising revenue stream and therefore nothing that will actually work worth a damn. I have some (not a lot of) sympathy for Google on this. How can one police advertisers without sometimes shutting out legitimate businesses? I suspect Ayn Rand failed to address that issue in her collected works.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Ah, the glories of a world run for and by advertisers

        "I have some (not a lot of) sympathy for Google on this. How can one police advertisers without sometimes shutting out legitimate businesses?"

        I have no sympathy at for them. They created the situation by very aggressively going after the ad market. They are now one of the biggest advertisers on the planet. That means in many jurisdictions, they are classed an monopoly or near-monoply which means they can't pcik and choose who they trade with. When it was lots of small advertisers and even websites handling their own advertising sales, it was harder for scammers to get wide exposure and easier to stamp on them when found out. Google captured the market by reducing costs to out-compete the smaller houses. Now they have to use that lower cost model to divert some of their $billions into keeping the market clean and fair.

        After all, advertising is Googles biggest cash cow and most of the profits are diverted to other parts of Google/Alphabet. It's time to put some of it back and do the job properly. It's their automation which is allowing the problems to occur. They have a responsibility to solve the problem they created.

        1. Snake

          Re: Ah, the glories of a world run for and by advertisers

          It is quite intentional, Google's decision. As per typical near to total monopolistic corporate practices, they made a decision and expected everyone to simply toe the line and accept the outcome. We've seen that in every aspect of our modern lives and I can't understand why, when Google applies the same broadside attack to their 'problem', that people are suddenly surprised.

          We restricted monopolies for a reason. If you continue to accept their (modern) existence, you'll have to face their historical modus operandi.

  6. doublelayer Silver badge

    Sorry, but I'm willing to accept that damage

    I get that it's not much fun for the companies who used to advertise on Google and are now blocked, but I have seen far too many malicious tech support ads that I'll accept most anything to have them thrown away. Of course, I'm blocking ads already, but these ads prey upon people who typically don't have ads blocked. I'm also afraid that I would find an advertisement on Google to dissuade me from going to a repair place. While advertising is a fact of life and necessary under some circumstances, it has become so pervasive and underhanded that I often feel very negatively towards those people who advertise.

    1. stiine Bronze badge

      Re: Sorry, but I'm willing to accept that damage

      You miss the point. Google said they were going to stop allowing scammers to advertise. The article provided two non-scammers who are no longer allowed to advertise because of Google's changes.

      Doesn't google maps streeet view have a picture of that guy's shop? If they do, don't they also his 'myrepairshop' wifi SSID at the same location? And really means they took the 'oh, this is easy' way out

      I think the right phrase is: Think of it as evolution in action.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Sorry, but I'm willing to accept that damage

        I understand that point. And I feel a lot of sympathy toward those companies who are being prevented from advertising. I have no sympathy for Google in this matter and think they should be repairing the mess they made. However, I also am happy that at least some action is being taken against tech support scammers. Previously, Google has struck me as a remarkably lax enforcer of standards on their platform, resulting in untold numbers of net users being served malicious content. To me, this issue is rather worrying, and so I'm afraid I cannot be as sympathetic to real tech support companies as I'd like to be. I'm completely on their side when Google fails to check them properly and rejects an appeal to continue legitimate advertising, and I think Google is at fault for that aspect. However, I do not much care that tech support places that wish to advertise on Google have to go through extra verification, and I'm willing to accept that if it results in a decrease in tech support scams.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Sorry, but I'm willing to accept that damage

          AdWords is linked to a real address and landline phone number by Google sending the advertiser a postcard with a code on it and ringing them up with a code.

          All the data they need is there, they just didn't check it properly.

  7. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Problems

    While I detest the scammers (including Geek Squad), this will stop them but only slow them down. One of the groups they prey on is the elderly who are not computer savvy. Cold calling many of these people will be effective as they are likely to answer the phone call and believe the spiel. Not as cheap or efficient but still effective.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Problems

      Cold calls are a scammer's stock in trade. Think "this is Microsoft support and you have a virus."..... As for ads, I tell people to ignore the ads unless they know the company. If they need something like repair, Google for "repair shops near me". Then visit the shop and ask to talk to a customer as reviews aren't always real reviews on Google. Then again, would anyone take their car to a repair shop they know nothing about? Use a building contractor they've never heard of? Around here, we also get the house painters who knock on the door offering to paint our house.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Problems

        Getting those calls used to be fun, because there wasn’t a windoze box in the house. The people engaged in the calls refused to believe that such a thing was possible. So you could have great fun holding them on the line and costing them money tying them in knots.

        This obviously hit their profit margins and they changed so when I started in with that the line would go dead. But either there were multiple setups or their systems don’t work very well and despite knowing how it would go if they rang me they continued to do so.

        The Jehova’s Witnesses were much better. After a spent 20minutes one Saturday morning doing my atheist scientific best to put mindworms of doubt in a young man’s mind they stopped knocking on our door for over a decade. I would see and hear them doing the neighbours but our door remained unknocked. Do NOT Approach: Antichrist inside.

        Then last year two women knocked on my door, perhaps they thought enough time had passed. But they were no fun, too dim to understand the stuff I was throwing at them. I was about to go for a run so was dressed in shorts and t-shirt when I answered the door. One accused me of being in my underwear. Talk about sheltered lives.

        I ran past them a short time later to ram home the reality of a fit man in skimpy attire being all energetic. If you cannot corrupt them one way . . .

        I’m an equal opportunities guy when it comes to religious conversion campaigns. I should get to fight back when they try it on me and I do. They need to understand their immortal souls are in play and in danger when they engage with me and I will try for them. Bwaaahaaaa!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Jehova’s Witlesses & Morons

          Many years ago one of my cousins got a very large German Shepherd dog. Prince had been in a police training program and failed it, as he was the friendliest dog ever. Really. He was also 75 to 80 kilos. Really. Whenever someone new came to the front gate, Prince would run down the drive to meet his new friend. My cousin lived close to nests of both Witlesses and Morons. They would send competing teams out with Watchtowers and Books of Mormon in efforts to Convert the Infidel. After Prince came to greet the first few teams and, rather than putting their trust in The Lord, they ran away from the Giant Slavering Wolf Thing. Poor Prince would sit on the curb and whine at their rapidly receding backs. After a while the Witlesses and Morons didn’t show on the block, much less knock on the gate. One of them, probably the Morons, called the cops to report a bad dog. Prince jumped on the cop who showed up and licked his face energetically. The Witlesses and Morons stayed away.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Problems

          "The Jehova’s Witnesses were much better."

          I once had Mormons knock on my door and on a whim I invited them in. One of them noticed a Frank Zappa album I had out, and we spent the next hour engaged in one of the best discussions about Zappa that I ever had (the guy was a huge, and knowledgeable, fan).

        3. Snake

          Re: Problems that need solving

          "I was about to go for a run so was dressed in shorts and t-shirt when I answered the door. One accused me of being in my underwear"

          You should have confirmed. "Why yes, yes I am indeed in my underwear, and that's what you get for cold-knocking on stranger's doors to bother them with your irrelevant banter when we did not ask you to. If you don't want to see me naked, then stop knocking on my door."

    2. iron Silver badge

      Re: Problems

      It's funny when you have a support issue open with Azure and you get a call from an Indian who says "I'm calling from Microsoft..."

      I almost told a legitimate support person to fuck off.

      1. stiine Bronze badge
        Devil

        Re: Problems

        Won't it be great when the scammers start spoofing a Microsoft-owned number...

        1. Myvekk

          Re: Problems

          With the VOIP systems they already have, they can, and do, already do this. Perhaps not with an actual MS number, but with other ones.

          It is no more difficult to do, than putting a different email address in the 'Reply To' field when you send an email.

  8. Nolveys Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Google knows best

    The actions of Google are for the best. Google is building a better society. Only foolish peons would think to question Google.

    Google has always and will always act in only the best interests of the writhing, unwashed masses. Google is divinely inspired and will not tolerate being questioned or contacted in any way. Those who doubt Google are wrong and foolish idiots. In fact, anyone outside of Google is a foolish idiot and a filthy pig.

    Trust in the divine light of Google, you repugnant gutter filth. Google need not explain itself to you nor should it. You are too stupid a garbage person to comprehend Google's infinite genius.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google ads approval process was always been wank

    I tried to put up an ad for a small website called "firework safety" with no firework marketing content (this was way back when the CPC was very low, £10 would have got hundreds of clicks). It was largely just a showcase for some nice photos. Banned because "firework" is a banned category. At the same time they were still running some firework retailer ads (as well as firearms and porn). The firework retailer ads seemed to get blocked after a few days so I guess they make ads live first, review later.

    I changed my site to "Guy Fawkes night safety". That got banned too but this time the ban was almost instant, I guess that having one site banned gets you on the naughty list.

    Interestingly ads for Macromedia/Adobe Fireworks software were not triggering the "banned word" filter.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about all the other scams?

    In the past I seem to recall Google ran ads for some of the scams like E111 cards (free but scammers charge for the trivial "service" of entering the details you provide to the government web site).

    More importantly Google does too little to remove these scams from normal search results. I narrowly stopped my wife "buying" £1000 of cheap flights from a scammer Google search had found.

    I suppose the repair shops should at least be grateful they still get a Google Search listing but when Google decide to clean up Search in the same heavy handed way...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about all the other scams?

      I appeared to have lost my (UK) driving licence, and needed to order a replacement. My wife had a quick Google and reported back the cost was £77.60 - which prompted me to spend a couple of days to continue looking.

      After deciding to bite the bullet, I went via the DVLA website and it cost .... £20 !!!!!1

      A quick shufty through the wifes browsing history reveals the top Google result for "replace lost licence" was a scamming site "dvlalicence<wefoiwehoi>.co.uk" which added £57.60 to the process.

      I bet they're still being promoted.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TL;DR - but for some businesses Google advertising is a SPOF ?

    Whatever happened to spreading and mitigating risk ?

    Seems a lot of these B-Ark businesses rely a bit too much on one channel, and are reaping what they don't sew. Or is that too harsh ?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: TL;DR - but for some businesses Google advertising is a SPOF ?

      "reaping what they don't sew."

      Well, I suppose if you don't sew the seed bags, you may accidentality sow some seeds in the wrong place, which you could then reap later.

  12. sitta_europea Bronze badge

    Let's see now.... Google gets paid handsomely by companies that make stuff, and who don't want you to mend old stuff when you can just buy new stuff.

    So Google craps on companies that mend stuff.

    And this surprises anybody?

  13. Snowy Silver badge
    Joke

    If they can not...

    Tell the difference between a malicious advert and a genuine one maybe the next step is to block all adverts :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If they can not...

      blocking all adverts is malicious, harmful to the economy, and bad for your teeth. I read it on google something-something.

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