back to article TAG, you're s*!t: Internet advertising industry bods admit self-policing approach is a sham

The Trustworthy Accountability Group, or TAG, was formed in 2015 to "eradicate digital advertising fraud, malware, ad-supported piracy, and to increase transparency across the digital advertising supply chain." As Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG, explained to The Register in a phone interview, "We're like the Good Housekeeping seal of …

  1. jake Silver badge

    ::shrugs::

    Whatever.

    I've been aggressively blocking online ads for 25 years[0]. Why? Because they are all crap, that's why. I have never seen an online advertisement that had any bearing whatsoever on my life. That's not once. Ever. So why should I waste the bandwidth?

    Every now and then, I'll drop the blocks for sites such as ElReg. If the ads were sensible, weren't lies and/or outright fraud, were relevant to my needs, and didn't constantly fight each other to get in my face, I'd probably leave 'em be and simply ignore them. But they aren't. So I reset the blocks after a day or three of gritting my teeth ... and I'll continue to block them for the foreseeable future.

    And of course there is the problem of ad-delivered malware.

    Honestly, who do the ad agencies think they are fooling, anyway? That's rhetorical ...

    [0] Really. I started blocking ads with a simple HOSTS change in '94 ...

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: ::shrugs::

      >> I have never seen an online advertisement that had any bearing whatsoever on my life.

      That's because you're not allowing them to track your browsing to 'deliver more relevant ads'.

      HONEST!!

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: ::shrugs::

        You mean like:

        "I see you bought a washing machine last week. As you are clearly someone who loves buying washing machines, here are some more for you to look at"

        "I see you are looking at lesbian porn. What you really need is a boyfriend. Here are some horrible-looking semi-naked men posing with dead animals to completely kill your mood."

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: ::shrugs::

      The major problem with online ads is the idea of highly targeted ads based on browsing, search, etc. history. What is missing is the context of one's purchasing decisions. Targeted ads are based on the assumption they can divine the context by analyzing a lot of data, which in many cases they cannot. If you do not know we someone was searching or bought something you do not know context. More traditional ads assume that if you are viewing a show or visiting a site you have some interest in the content. And if you have some interest you are likely to be interested in certain products and services that are typical interests of the audience. Traditional ads do not make assumptions about individual audience members and more geared to be informational about the product or service in a more general sense. Also traditional ads are not expecting a high response rate as they are often 'showing the flag' to most in the audience. A useful service.

  2. big_D Silver badge
    Holmes

    Council...

    TAG, which counts companies like Amazon, Disney, Facebook, and Google among its leadership council

    There's their first problem, with regards to credibility. They shouldn't have any of those on their council. To do their advertised job, they can't have any advertising agencies on their council...

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Council...

      Quite. Disney is a Mickey Mouse operation for a start

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Council...

      Indeed.

      There only needs to be one person on this council...someone like the late, great Bill Hicks (may he rest in peace)

      Seriously, fucking kill yourself!

      my friends, family members and myself have all been victims of malvertising that have included remote access trojans and more recently fileless rootkits and mobile malware for which I am currently seeking legal council.

      And just last night I find that my newly installed Pi-Hole may not be as reliable at stopping these criminals as it once was:

      https://www.zdnet.com/article/pi-hole-drops-support-for-ad-blocklists-used-by-browser-based-ad-blockers/

      1. Carma

        Re: Council...

        I wasn't happy with that 'fix' either... easily resolved by replacing the new gravity.sh with the old one - version still reports as 4.3.2 but support for adblock lists is there again and updates work ok - just make sure you keep a copy of gravity.sh from 4.3.1 around incase they change it again in a future update.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Council...

        I've been using Pi-Hole for a while and nothing has changed for me, but I've always used DNS rules, not AdBlock rules. After the last update, it still blocks the 2.5 million domains on my blocklist.

  3. big_D Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Fraud...

    One of these is the Certified Against Fraud program. It allows companies to obtain the TAG Certified Against Fraud seal by complying with a set of guidelines tailored to the role a business plays in the digital ad ecosystem.

    Given the council members' proclivity for distributing fraudulent ads and malware through their networks, all you can say is that self-certification is a wonderful thing.

    1. Psmo Bronze badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Fraud...

      self-certification is a wonderful thing.

      Not sure that Boeing agrees right now...

      1. Psmo Bronze badge
        Meh

        Re: Fraud...

        That said, comparing ad-fraud to something that has already cost hundreds of lives isn't exactly a just comparison.

        (Yes, I know self-replying makes you go blind. Shut up, it's just this once, I can stop any time I want.)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fraud...

          Not really. Someone conned/hacked out of thousands, may also lose a lot in life. Perhaps not their actual life, unless things take an even greater turn. But even being catfished can have horrific results for some people.

  4. Psmo Bronze badge
    Pint

    Where's my headline upvote button?

    Made me smile, then frown, sigh and shake my head while I look through the morning checks.

    I'm sure its opening time somewhere around here, so charge it to my tab.

  5. ExampleOne

    So, what we are discovering is that an industry that specialism in selling us stuff we don't want or need, that specializes in pushing the truth, may not really be that trustworthy when it comes to telling us the truth about it's behaviour?

  6. veti Silver badge

    I'm confused. If you can self certify, how can there be companies who apply for certification but don't get it? And why would they pay tens of thousands for the privilege?

    For that sort of money, they could run a complete independent audit regime.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      It works like this:

      Application form:

      Do you engage in advertising fraud?

      [x] Yes

      [ ] No

      Response:

      Your application has been rejected.

      Why do they do this?

      They are shill companies set up to "prove" that their application form is a robust test of their fraudulence levels, and that not everyone can pass the test.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Advertising people tell lies bout themselves| Can you believe it?

  8. sbt Silver badge
    Flame

    "... a racket that extorts fees from good companies..."

    There seems to be no end to the parade of rent-seekers and ticket-clippers finding ways to insert themselves into a simple buy-sell transaction on the Internet. It should have been a massive win for disintermediation, but what with ICANN, search engines, ad aggregators, marketplaces, PayPal, Venmo and co, the salami factor is getting out of hand.

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Re: "... a racket that extorts fees from good companies..."

      To be fair to PayPal, they fulfilled a need at a time.

      It pretty-much sprung up with eBay, allowing you to pay a buyer without handing over details, affording you some basic buyer protections without having the additional expense of escrow (remember that on eBay), and allowing you to use a major credit card without your card issuer twitching too much.

      Whether it's still needed is a matter for debate (which I'll dodge here), but the reason they're huge is because they opened up a new market in an efficient and responsible way.

      Yes, you can still lose out via PayPal, but it's pretty rare.

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: "... a racket that extorts fees from good companies..."

        "Yes, you can still lose out via PayPal, but it's pretty rare."

        Back in the days when Google gave us a hit count, a search on "PayPal Sucks" generated a truly impressive number of hits. Anyway, in the US where I live, PayPal operates as a largely unregulated bank. My dear old mother was a fan of "Trust But Regulate" Overall, I have to think that entrusting financial details to an unregulated bank may not be prudent. Not to mention that PayPal is almost certainly very high on the list of hacker targets.

        Things may be better in the EU where I believe PayPal operates as a real, regulated bank.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: "... a racket that extorts fees from good companies..."

          Google still gives me a hit count. It's not accurate (but then it never was), but it's a number.

  9. Halfmad Silver badge

    Youtube

    Noticed a real uptick in the number of adverts on my youtube app (not pre-video ads) which are clearly scam based snake oil.

    Suppose you need to get money somewhere when you're self-harming over political correctness and running scared for a handful of pressure groups.

  10. theOtherJT

    Once upon a 6 or 7 years ago...

    ...I found myself writing a password management wrapper that let people change their LDAP passwords via our website. We had some complexity requirements in place to keep AD happy, with which the LDAP was replicated, so it was the usual "Three out of four character classes, at least eight characters" stuff. To save us from sending things to the LDAP which we knew were going to be rejected, I wrote a few simple tests to check in javascript before the user could submit the form, and update the page with a nice little "Check, check, check" of meeting the complexity requirements.

    If you chose to ignore the checks and submit anyway, it would give a "You need..." type message letting you know how close you'd gotten to meeting them. Personally I thought that this was a bit over the top, and the little check marks were probably sufficient, but I was told this was going to be required because users couldn't be trusted... which was sort of hard to argue with.

    As a result the error messages got increasingly more terse the more times you pressed the button without meeting the requirements, after 4 or 5 goes it resorted to something along the lines of

    "THREE out of FOUR of the following: Upper case letters. Lower case letters. Numbers. Punctuation. Dear god how can you get that wrong this many times?! What the hell are you even doing at $PLACE_OF_WORK with this level of reading comprehension?"

    It stayed like that for several months until someone finally noticed and complained and I was forced to change it :(

  11. Palpy

    John Wanamaker, redux.

    Supposedly John said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half”.

    I suspect that in 2019 that should be, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half... er, oh wait, yes I do. It's the online ads."

    To be fair, I once knew a fellow who believed online ads conveyed useful information. He was weird in other ways, too. Credulous to a fault.

    But like most here, I block ads and tracking, and don't use Microsoft's OS when I go online. When 90% of netizens run ad blockers, then the advertising industry will weep, and try to clean up their various pig-and-pony acts. Oddly, I don't see that happening. Most people seem content to spend lots of time on Facebook, but no time setting up decent security measures on their browsers. Alas, the world was ever thus.

  12. JohnFen Silver badge

    I am a bad person

    I've been enjoying watching the ad industry struggling with this sort of fraud. It couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch! I would be thrilled if this problem was so intractable that it seriously damages the entire industry.

  13. fidodogbreath Silver badge
    Holmes

    This just in:

    Duh.

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