Tag: Google

By Cheyenne MacDonald for DailyMail

Google’s private browsing options may not be as incognito as you’d expect.

New research into Google’s ‘filter bubbles,’ in which search results are personalized based on the data it’s collected about you, has found that logging out or switching to Incognito Mode does almost nothing to shield you from targeted results.

By comparing search results for controversial topics, including gun control, immigration, and vaccinations, the study (notably conducted by rival search engine, DuckDuckGo) uncovered significant variations in what different users were shown.

New research into Google’s ‘filter bubbles,’ in which search results are personalised based on the data it’s collected about you, has found that logging out or switching to Incognito Mode does almost nothing to shield you from targeted results.

Despite the common assumption that logging out or going Incognito provides anonymity, DuckDuckGo points out that this isn’t really the case.

Websites use several other identifying factors to keep tabs on users’ activity, including IP addresses.

To highlight the issue, DuckDuckGo recruited volunteers in the US to perform a series of searches for the terms ‘gun control,’ ‘immigration,’ and ‘vaccinations.’

All were tasked to do this at the same time, at 9pm ET on Sunday, June 24, in Incognito, logged out, and then logged back in.

The study also controlled for location, DuckDuckGo notes.

This made for 87 sets of results in total, with 76 desktop users and 11 mobile users.

Despite the anonymised conditions, which would be expected to produce the same results across the board, most of the participants still appeared to see personalised results.

Private searches for gun control, for example, yielded 62 different sets of results for the 76 participants.

Similar trends were seen in searches for the other two terms, with 57 variations in ‘immigration’ results, and 73 variations in ‘vaccinations’ results.

Users were shown links in different orders, and some were shown links that were not displayed to others.

News and Video infoboxes, in particular, demonstrated ‘significant variation.’

A search for ‘immigration,’ for example, pulled up six variations from six different sources in the Videos infobox, while ‘gun control’ led to 12 variations from 7 sources.

According to DuckDuckGo, the findings indicate that ‘it’s simply not possible to use Google search and avoid its filter bubble.’

While the motivations behind the study are undoubtedly biased, the findings still stand as a reminder that true anonymity on the internet isn’t as straightforward as it might seem.

By Lily Hay Newman for Wired 

For two hours on Monday, internet traffic that was supposed to route through Google’s Cloud Platform instead found itself in quite unexpected places, including Russia and China. But while the haphazard routing invoked claims of traffic hijacking—a real threat, given that nation states could use the technique to spy on web users or censor services—the incident turned out to be a simple mistake with outsized impacts.

Google noted that almost all traffic to its services is encrypted, and wasn’t exposed during the incident no matter what. As traffic pinballed across ISPs, though, some observers, including the monitoring firm ThousandEyes, saw signs of malicious BGP hijacking—a technique that manipulates the web’s Border Gateway Protocol, which helps ISPs automatically collaborate to route traffic seamlessly across the web.

ThousandEyes saw Google traffic rerouting over the Russian ISP TransTelecom, to China Telecom, toward the Nigerian ISP Main One. “Russia, China, and Nigeria ISPs and 150-plus [IP address] prefixes—this is obviously very suspicious,” says Alex Henthorne-Iwane, vice-president of product marketing at ThousandEyes. “It doesn’t look like a mistake.”

Malicious BGP hijacking is a serious concern, and can be exploited by criminals or nation state actors to intercept traffic or disrupt a target service—like Google. But the technique also has a dopey, well-intentioned cousin known as a prefix leak, or sometimes “accidental BGP hijacking.”

In both cases, rerouting occurs when an ISP declares that it owns blocks of IP addresses that it doesn’t actually control. This can be an intentional deception, but can also simply come down to a configuration error that, while disruptive, is not intentional. On Monday, a Google spokesperson said that the company didn’t see signs of malicious hijacking, and instead suspected that the Nigerian ISP Main One had accidentally caused the problem.

“The problem here is a failure to apply basic best current practices to these routing sessions.”

There are minimum best practices that ISPs should implement to keep BGP routes on the up and up. These are important, because they apply filters that catch errors in the event of a route leak and block problematic routes. Not all ISPs implement these protections, though, and in a prefix leak like the one that affected Google, traffic will flow chaotically across networks, not based on efficiency or established paths, but based on which networks haven’t put the BGP safeguards in place and will therefore accept the rogue routing.

Indeed, on Tuesday morning Main One said in a statement that, “This was an error during a planned network upgrade due to a misconfiguration on our BGP filters. The error was corrected within 74mins.”

In this case, it appears that the Russian and Chinese ISPs, and perhaps others as well, offered a path to the Google traffic because they hadn’t implemented protective configurations.

The protocols underlying the internet were written decades ago, in a different era of computing, and many have needed major security overhauls and additions to improve trust and reliability around the web. There was the effort to encrypt web traffic with HTTPS, and the growing movement to secure the internet’s Domain Name System address lookup process so it can’t be used to spy on users, or for malicious rerouting.

Similarly, ISPs and internet infrastructure providers are starting to implement a protection called Resource Public Key Infrastructure that can virtually eliminate BGP hijacking, by creating a mechanism to cryptographically confirm the validity of BGP routes. Like HTTPS and DNSSEC, RPKI will only start to provide true customer protection when a critical mass of internet infrastructure providers implement it.

“This incident had a non-trivial impact because Google and some other prominent network routes were accidentally leaked,” says Roland Dobbins, a principal engineer at the network analysis firm Netscout. “But the problem here, as it is in most of these cases, is a failure to apply basic best current practices to these routing sessions. The key is for network operators to participate in the global operational community, get these kinds of filters put in place, and move to implement RPKI.”

While Google’s incident wasn’t a hack and instead gets into obscure internet protocol drama, the impact for users on Monday was apparent—and shows the pressing need to resolve issues with BGP trust. The flaw has been maliciously hijacked before, and could be again.

Facebook, Google are election winners

By Todd Shields , Gerry Smith and Sarah Frier for Bloomberg

Even before ballots are counted from Tuesday’s elections, some clear winners have emerged, as Google and Facebook reap windfalls from political advertising after a season of controversy over online political speech.

Political ad spending is on course to set a record, exceeding expenditures in the 2016 presidential election year, with a total of perhaps $9 billion. Political ad buyers weren’t deterred by months of furor over election meddling by Russians using Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet’s Google and YouTube.

“This was a test year for political digital,” says Kip Cassino, who works with research firm Borrell Associates after retiring as its executive vice president. “What they wanted to see was how many ads could they put on digital without people getting really upset.”

Digital ad spending rose more than 25-fold from the last non-presidential national elections in 2014, reaching 20 percent of expected political spending this year at almost $1.8 billion, according to estimates compiled by Borrell. Kantar Media/CMAG, which omits some online activity, estimated 2018 online spending at $900 million, up from $250 million four years ago.

The figures show how digital sites, with their ability to target thin slices of the electorate, have assumed a prime place alongside traditional media such as broadcast TV, which is still prized for reaching large numbers of older voters likely to go the polls and accounts for the largest amount of political ad spending.

Kantar estimated providers such as Tegna Inc. and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. would see political ad revenue rise to $2.7 billion, up 30 percent compared with 2014. When local races are included, broadcast stations saw a decline in political advertising compared with 2014, to $3.5 billion, but remain the top recipient, according to Borrell’s estimates.

Local cable TV advertising sold by the likes of Comcast Corp. or Charter Communications Inc. was expected to jump 75 percent compared with four years ago, Kantar said.

“Everybody killed it this year,” said Steven Passwaiter, a vice president with Kantar, which monitors political ads.

On Tuesday, Gray Television Inc., which owns more than 100 local broadcast TV stations in smaller markets such as Augusta, Georgia and Omaha, Nebraska, said third-quarter political ad revenue was up 17 percent compared with the same quarter in 2014. That included a windfall four years ago from a hotly-contested senate race in Alaska, executives said.

“Political advertising remains quite alive and exceptionally healthy,” Gray Chief Executive Officer Hilton Howell said on an earnings call. Gray executives said political ad spending exceeded their expectations in states like Tennessee, Kansas and Florida.

By Jillian D’Onfro for CNBC

In response to the European Union’s $5 billion antitrust ruling in July, Google will change how it bundles its apps on Android phones and charge a licensing fee for phone makers that want to pre-install apps like Gmail, Maps and YouTube in the EU.

Google will also end restrictions on phone makers selling modified or “forked” versions of the mobile operating system.

Previously, Google tied together a suite of 11 different apps that phone makers would have to pre-install if they wanted to license its app store, Play. In July, the EU ruled that this bundling was anti-competitive — pushing consumers toward Google’s search engine and weakening rival app makers — though it only specifically called for Google to separate Chrome and Search from Play.

In response, Google said in a blog post on Tuesday that it will start offering separate licenses for Search and Chrome, as well as a license for its suite of apps like Maps, Gmail and Docs. That means that if phone makers want to pre-install those apps, they will have to pay a fee, though the amount was not specified. Google says the new licensing fee will offset revenue lost through compliance efforts that it uses to fund the development of Android, which it offers as a free, open source platform. The licenses for Search and Chrome will not have a fee.

Although Google doesn’t make money from Android directly, it generates advertising revenue through search as well as Chrome, Maps and Gmail, serving ads within those apps and using data it collects from users to better target ads across its platforms.

“Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA [European Economic Area],” wrote Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s vice president of platforms.

Google’s previous agreements with phone makers also prevented them from selling modified versions of Android if they wanted to use its suite of apps, but the company will now allow manufacturers to build forked smartphones and tablets for the EEA.

Overall, Google’s Android powers more than 80 percent of the world’s smartphones. These changes, which will come into effect on Oct. 29, will only affect phones for the EEA, a group consisting of 28 EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Source: eMarketer

A recent survey conducted by eMarketer has illustrated how the average American Internet user feels about digital advertising.

The majority of respondents felt that advertisers were “too aggressive” in the way they were tracked online.

 

The data was collected from an October 2018 survey by Janrain.

1 079 US Internet users ages 18 and over were surveyed online during August 2018.
Respondents identified:

  • their gender as female (54.6%) or male (45.4%)
  • their ages as being 18-29 (26.9%), 30-44 (21.8%), 45-60 (24.5%) or 60+ (26.8%)
  • their household income as being $0-$9,999 (6.4%), $10,000-$24,999 (11.3%), $25,000-$49,999 (18.8%), $50,000-$74,999 (17.4%), $75,000-$99,999 (13.6%), $100,000-$124,999 (9.4%), $125,000-$149,999 (3.7%), $150,000-$174,999 (3.7%), $175,000-$199,999 (1.5%) or $200,000+ (2.8%).

Bug proves lethal to Google+

Source: Business Day

Google is shutting down the consumer version of its online social network after fixing a bug exposing private data in as many as 500 000 accounts.

The US internet giant said it will “sunset” the Google+ social network for consumers. It failed to gain meaningful traction after being launched in 2011 as a challenge to Facebook.

A Google spokesperson cited “significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers’ expectations” along with “very low usage”.

In March, a security audit revealed a software bug that gave third-party apps access to Google+ private profile data that people meant to share only with friends. Google said it was unable to confirm which accounts were affected by the bug, but an analysis indicated it could have been as many as 500 000 Google+ accounts.

“We found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug … and we found no evidence that any profile data was misused,” Google said in a blog post.

The data involved was limited to optional profile fields, including name, age, gender, occupation and e-mail address, Google said. Information that could be accessed did not include posts, messages or telephone numbers.

Google did not specify how long the software flaw existed, or why it waited to disclose it.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Google executives opted against notifying users earlier because of fears it would catch the attention of regulators.

Google will wind down Google+ during the coming 10 months to allow people time to download pictures, videos or other data they want from their accounts. It plans to add new workplace-orientated features to enhance the appeal of Google+ as a “secure corporate social network” to be used inside business operations.

“We have many enterprise customers who are finding great value in using Google+ within their companies,” the firm said.

“Our review showed that Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product where co-workers can engage in internal discussions.”

By Jean le Roux for Fake News Exposed

Some of South Africa’s biggest banks, insurance companies and car manufacturers have been caught advertising on fake news websites.

A News24 investigation of three months has found that big brands like Absa, Coronation, Cell C, Capitec, Mercedes Benz, Takealot and OUTsurance, who spend millions of rands promoting and marketing the credibility and integrity of their brands, have indirectly contributed to the fake news industry by buying programmatic advertising that landed up on dodgy websites.

Some of these websites, like HINNews – a Nigeria-based site that publishes a mix of fabricated stories and real news – have run stories about EFF leader Julius Malema dying of listeriosis and a new kidnapping ring “ripping” unborn babies from their mothers.

As the world is grappling with the scourge of fake news in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election in the United States and the support he received from Russian-run fake news operations to target potential Republican voters, South Africa has not been spared from the phenomenon.

“At Africa Check, we’ve seen false news stories stoke retribution, cause panic and misinform people about their health, which can have deadly consequences. It’s a real shame that reputable news brands aid the existence of these outlets, even if inadvertently. The sooner this gap is plugged, the better for society,” says Anim van Wyk, chief editor at Africa Check.

Association by advertising

Ismail Jooma, Head of Strategy at VML South Africa told News24 the creators of disinformation and fake news use rhetoric as a tool to divide.

“‘Disinformation’ websites are the modern era’s galvaniser of marginalised rhetoric, more often than not these websites pursue an agenda of racism, sexism and intolerance. If we had to remove the lens of moral subjectivity, purveyors of fake news aim to disunite at the very least.

A number of fake news sites that specialise in publishing fabricated news about South Africa make money through selling programmatic advertising spots to Google and other service providers.

News24 is publishing the results of our investigation into this phenomenon, including a blacklist of fake news websites, on a dedicated website titled Fake News Exposed.

Websites like HINNews are among several similar sites known for their clickbait headlines and fabricated stories, which are either copied from other online news sources or made up from scratch. Their articles show a fondness for the macabre and racially charged stories and are often widely shared on social media.

Companies whose brands appeared on these websites say they were unaware that they were inadvertently funding fake news and have instead blamed Google for allowing these sites to operate.

Google enables programmatic advertising, which is based on users’ browsing patterns on the internet. Advertising agencies buy adverts on behalf of clients and Google allocates these ads through a platform called Google Adsense, that uses algorithms to place adverts on websites. Website owners are then paid by Google Adsense.

In countries like Macedonia, running fake news websites that publish fabricated stories have become a full-scale industry and source of revenue for unemployed youngsters.

Companies condemn disinformation

Capitec, one of the local brands who’s advertising was found on a fake news website, condemned the phenomenon through their spokesperson Charl Nel. This sentiment was echoed by representatives from OUTsurance and Coronation. The full responses of companies caught on fake news websites by News24 can be found here.

These companies say they were unaware that a part of their advertising spend was finding its way to the owners of fake news site, while Google removed HINNews from its advertising network on September 21 after receiving queries from News24.

Nel said it was difficult for the bank to ascertain which news sites are fake and that it targets a market based on its readership. “We utilise various software for delivery of programmatic ads which are globally recognised (and) which optimises and creates lists as a brand watch. Capitec and our advertising partners also review websites on a monthly basis, however, it is very hard to decipher which websites are not legitimate as we target based on users.”

Nel condemned the use of fake news but repeated that it is hard to determine which sites are real and which are fake. “We are working hard to ensure these sites are blacklisted.”

OUTsurance’s head of client relations, Natasha Kawulesar, also denied the insurer’s knowledge or support of adverts on fake news websites and said the fake news website where it advertised was part of the Google Display Network (GDN), Google’s network of Adsense-approved websites. Google bans pornography, illegal downloads and similar websites from the GDN.

“We do not have the knowledge or capability to handle this function [digital advertising] ourselves and currently rely on our media and technology partners to handle this on their side,” said Kawulesar. “We place our trust in the publishers and media partners we deal with. We also have service level agreements in place to protect our brand and reputation. We confirm once again that we do not condone fake news or misinformation in any way, form or scale.”

Thato Mntambo, Manager: Corporate Communications at Mercedes-Benz South Africa also told News24 that the placement of their adverts was in the hands of Google.

“The unintended consequence of the pervasiveness of GDN [Google Display Network] is the difficulty to monitor the number of websites where our advertisements are displayed. We are conscious of the potential of incorrect placements and ameliorate the effects thereof through continuous monitoring of keywords and, in some cases, blacklisting keywords.”

Coronation Fund Managers, responding through their representative Tanya Schreuder of Dentsu Aegis Network, told News24 that the website on which their branding was found formed part of Google’s GDN list of websites.

“Under no circumstances would the Dentsu Aegis Network, as custodians of our clients’ brands, consciously support sites which are illegal, undesirable or dubious in any form. We take brand safety incredibly seriously and on behalf of all of our clients we undertake every effort to ensure that any online inventory we deploy is legitimate and of a quality that is contextually suitable.”

Google’s response

Google declined to comment on HINNews’s listing on the Google Display Network.

A spokesperson said: “Our publisher policies govern where Google ads may be placed. We don’t comment on individual sites but we enforce these policies vigorously and regularly review sites to ensure compliance. We also encourage people to let us know when they see sites that they have concerns about that may be in violation of our policies.”

Google turns 20

By Mikelle Leow for Design Taxi

On 27 September, Google turned 20 years old. It’s difficult to remember a world without the convenience of looking things up on the Internet; for many young adults, the scenario would seem impossible.

“When Google started 20 years ago, our mission was to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” the company wrote in a blog post.

“That seemed like an incredibly ambitious mission at the time—even considering that in 1998 the web consisted of just 25-million pages (roughly the equivalent of books in a small library).”

The tool hides an interesting Easter egg that takes you back to its early days. A simple search of, “Google in 1998,” brings up the company’s old logo and web designs that are telling of how much the internet has progressed since then.

Notably, Google’s brand name was stylized with an exclamation mark, which is not unlike the current Yahoo logo.

It also had a newsletter that would send you monthly updates of outstanding websites. Imagine if you received those emails today.

It’s good to know that, in spite of its considerable progress, the essence of the old Google still remains. For instance, the company has retained its color palette and its ‘I’m feeling lucky’ option.

What’s surprising is the site’s linkback to other search engines. Aside from Amazon and Yahoo, several of the other sites are no longer in existence.

 

By Mark Bergen and Jennifer Surane for Bloomberg / Fin24 

For the past year, select Google advertisers have had access to a potent new tool to track whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the US. That insight came thanks in part to a stockpile of Mastercard transactions that Google paid for.

But most of the two billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware of this behind-the-scenes tracking. That’s because the companies never told the public about the arrangement.

Google and Mastercard brokered a business partnership during about four years of negotiations, according to four people with knowledge of the deal, three of whom worked on it directly.

The alliance gave Google an unprecedented asset for measuring retail spending, part of the search giant’s strategy to fortify its primary business against onslaughts from Amazon.com and others.

But the deal, which has not been previously reported, could raise broader privacy concerns about how much consumer data technology companies like Google quietly absorb.

“People don’t expect what they buy physically in a store to be linked to what they are buying online,” said Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

“There’s just far too much burden that companies place on consumers and not enough responsibility being taken by companies to inform users what they’re doing and what rights they have.”

Google paid Mastercard millions of dollars for the data, according to two people who worked on the deal, and the companies discussed sharing a portion of the ad revenue, according to one of the people. The people asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

A spokesperson for Google said there was no revenue sharing agreement with its partners.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on the partnership with Mastercard but addressed the ads tool. “Before we launched this beta product last year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information,” the company said in a statement.

“We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners.” The company said people can opt out of ad tracking using Google’s “Web and App Activity” online console.

Inside Google, multiple people raised objections that the service did not have a more obvious way for cardholders to opt out of the tracking, one of the people said.

Seth Eisen, a Mastercard spokesperson, also declined to comment specifically on Google. But he said Mastercard shares transaction trends with merchants and their service providers to help them measure “the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.” The information, which includes sales volumes and average size of the purchase, is shared only with permission of the merchants, Eisen added. “No individual transaction or personal data is provided,” he said in a statement.

“We do not provide insights that track, serve up ads to, or even measure ad effectiveness relating to, individual consumers.”

Last year, when Google announced the service, called “Store Sales Measurement,” the company just said it had access to “approximately 70%” of US credit and debit cards through partners, without naming them.

More possible deals

That 70% could mean that the company has deals with other credit card companies, totalling 70% of the people who use credit and debit cards. Or it could mean that the company has deals with companies that include all card users, and 70% of those are logged into Google accounts like Gmail when they click on a Google search ad.

Google has approached other payment companies about the program, according to two people familiar with the conversations, but it is not clear if they finalised similar deals. The people asked to not be identified because they were not authorised to speak about the matter.

Google confirmed that the service only applies to people who are logged in to one of its accounts and have not opted out of ad tracking. Purchases made on Mastercard-branded cards accounted for around a quarter of US volumes last year, according to the Nilson Report, a financial research firm.

Through this test programme, Google can anonymously match these existing user profiles to purchases made in physical stores. The result is powerful: Google knows that people clicked on ads and can now tell advertisers that this activity led to actual store sales.

Google is testing the data service with a “small group” of advertisers in the US, according to a spokesperson. With it, marketers see aggregate sales figures and estimates of how many they can attribute to Google ads – but they don’t see a shoppers’ personal information, how much they spend or what exactly they buy.

The tests are only available for retailers, not the companies that make the items sold inside stores, the spokesperson said. The service only applies to its search and shopping ads, she said.

For Google, the Mastercard deal fits into a broad effort to net more retail spending. Advertisers spend lavishly on Google to glean valuable insight into the link between digital ads a website visit or an online purchase.

It’s harder to tell how ads influence offline behaviour. That’s a particular frustration for companies marketing items like apparel or home goods, which people will often research online but walk into actual stores to buy.

That gap created a demand for Google to find ways for its biggest customers to gauge offline sales, and then connect them to the promotions they run on Google.

“Google needs to tie that activity back to a click,” said Joseph McConellogue, head of online retail for the ad agency Reprise Digital. “Most advertisers are champing at the bit for this kind of integration.”

Initially, Google devised its own solution, a mobile payments service first called Google Wallet. Part of the original goal was to tie clicks on ads to purchases in physical stores, according to someone who worked on the product.

But adoption never took off, so Google began looking for allies. A spokesperson said its payments service was never used for ads measurement.

So Google added more …

Since 2014, Google has flagged for advertisers when someone who clicked an ad visits a physical store, using the Location History feature in Google Maps. Still, the advertiser didn’t know if the shopper made a purchase. So, Google added more. A tool, introduced the following year, let advertisers upload email addresses of customers they’ve collected into Google’s ad-buying system, which then encrypted them.

Additionally, Google layered on inputs from third-party data brokers, such as Experian and Acxiom, which draw in demographic and financial information for marketers.

But those tactics didn’t always translate to more ad spending. Retail outlets weren’t able to connect the emails easily to their ads. And the information they received from data brokers about sales was imprecise or too late.

Marketing executives didn’t adopt these location tools en masse, said Christina Malcolm, director at the digital ad agency iProspect. “It didn’t give them what they needed to go back to their bosses and tell them, ‘We’re hitting our numbers,’” she said.

Then Google brought in card data. In May 2017, the company introduced “Store Sales Measurement.” It had two components. The first lets companies with personal information on consumers, like encrypted email addresses, upload those into Google’s system and synchronise ad buys with offline sales. The second injects card data.

It works like this: a person searches for “red lipstick” on Google, clicks on an ad, surfs the web but doesn’t buy anything. Later, she walks into a store and buys red lipstick with her Mastercard.

The advertiser who ran the ad is fed a report from Google, listing the sale along with other transactions in a column that reads “Offline Revenue” – only if the web surfer is logged into a Google account online and made the purchase within 30 days of clicking the ad. The advertisers are given a bulk report with the percentage of shoppers who clicked or viewed an ad then made a relevant purchase.

Most powerful tool

It’s not an exact match, but it’s the most powerful tool Google, the world’s largest ad seller, has offered for shopping in the real world. Marketers once had a patchwork of consumer data in their hands to triangulate who saw their ads and who was prompted to spend. Now they had far more clarity.

Google’s ad chief, Sridhar Ramaswamy, introduced the product in a blog post, writing that advertisers using it would have “no time-consuming setup or costly integrations.” Missing from the blog post was the arrangement with Mastercard.

Early signs indicate that the deal has been a boon for Google. The new feature also plugs transaction data into advertiser systems as soon as they occur, fixing the lag that existed previously and letting Google slot in better-performing ads.

Malcolm said her agency has tested the card measurement tool with a major advertiser, which she declined to name. Beforehand, the company received $5.70 in revenue for every dollar spent on marketing in the ad campaign with Google, according to an iProspect analysis. With the new transaction feature, the return nearly doubled to $10.60.

“That’s really powerful,” Malcolm said. “And it was a really good way to invest more in Google, frankly.”

But some privacy critics derided the tool as opaque. EPIC submitted a complaint about the sales measuring tack to the US Federal Trade Commission last year. A report in August that Facebook Inc. was talking with banks about accessing information for consumer service products sparked similar criticism. For years, Facebook and Google have worked to link their massive troves of user behaviour with consumer financial data.

And financial companies have plotted ways to tap into the bounty of digital advertising. The Google tie-up isn’t Mastercard’s only stab at minting the data it collects from customers. The company has built out its data and analytics capabilities in recent years through its consulting arm, Mastercard Advisors, and gives advertisers and merchants the ability to forecast consumer behaviour based on cardholder data.

Ad buyers that work with Google insist that the company is careful to maintain the walls between transaction information and web behaviour, keeping any info flowing to retailers and marketers anonymous. “Google is really strict about that,” said Malcolm.

Before launching the product, Google developed a novel encryption method, according to Jules Polonetsky, head of the Future Privacy Forum, who was briefed by Google on the product. He explained that the system ensures that neither Google nor its payments partners have access to the data that each collect.

“They’re sharing data that has been so transformed that, if put in the public, no party could do anything with it,” Polonetsky said. “It doesn’t create a privacy risk.”

Future Privacy Forum, a non-profit, receives funding from 160 companies including Google.

Google’s ad business, which hit $95.4bn in 2017 sales, has maintained an astounding growth rate of about 20% a year. But investors have worried how long that can last. Many major advertisers are starting to funnel more spending to rival Amazon, the company that hosts far more, and more granular, data on online shopping.

In response, Google has continued to push deeper into offline measurements. The company, like Facebook and Twitter, has explored the use of “beacons,” Bluetooth devices that track when shoppers enter stores.

Some ad agencies have actively talked to Google about even more ways to better size up offline behaviours. They have discussed adding features into the ads system such as what time of day people buy items and how much they spend, said John Malysiak, who runs search marketing for the Omnicom agency OMD USA.

“We’re trying to go deeper with Google,” he said. “We’d like to understand more.” Google declined to comment on the discussions.

Trump accuses Google of biased searches

By Darlene Superville and Barbara Ortutay for WWayTV3 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google and other U.S. tech companies of rigging search results about him “so that almost all stories & news is BAD.” He offered no evidence of bias, but a top adviser said the White House is “taking a look” at whether Google should face federal regulation.

Google pushed back sharply, saying Trump’s claim simply wasn’t so: “We never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

The president’s tweets echoed his familiar attacks on the news media — and a conservative talking point that California-based tech companies run by CEOs with liberal leanings don’t give equal weight to opposing political viewpoints. They also revealed anew his deep-seated frustration he doesn’t get the credit he believes he deserves.

The president, who has said he runs on little sleep, jumped onto Twitter before dawn Tuesday to rehash his recent complaints about alleged suppression of conservative voices and positive news about him.

Related Article: Las Vegas shooting leaves GOP-backed gun bills in limbo
He followed that up with vague threats in Oval Office comments.

“I think Google has really taken advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing. That’s a very serious charge,” Trump said, adding that Google, Twitter, Facebook and others “better be careful, because you can’t do that to people.”

Trump claimed that “we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. … So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.”

Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, told reporters later that the White House is “taking a look” at whether Google searches should be subject to some government regulation. That would be a noteworthy development since Trump often points proudly to his cutting of government regulations as a spur for economic gains.

In his tweets, Trump said — without offering evidence — that “Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” He added, again with no evidence, that “96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.”

A search query Tuesday morning, several hours after the president tweeted, showed stories from CNN, ABC News, Fox News and the MarketWatch business site, among others. A similar search later in the day for “Trump” had Fox News, the president’s favored cable network, among the top results.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, said its aim is to make sure its search engine users quickly get the most relevant answers.

“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology,” the company said in a statement. “Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Experts suggested that Trump’s comments showed a misunderstanding of how search engines work.

Google searches aim to surface the most relevant pages in response to a user’s query, even before he or she finishes typing. The answers that appear first are the ones Google’s formulas, with some help from human content reviewers, deem to be the most authoritative, informative and relevant. Many factors help decide the initial results, including how much time people spend on a page, how many other pages link to it, how well it’s designed and more.

Trump and some supporters have long accused Silicon Valley companies of being biased against them. While some company executives may lean liberal, they have long asserted that their products are without political bias.

Media analyst Ken Doctor said it doesn’t make sense for mass-market businesses like Google to lean either way politically. He characterized the complaints as a “sign of our times,” adding that, years ago, if the head of General Electric was supporting a Republican candidate, people who disagreed wouldn’t then go out and boycott GE products.

“The temperature has risen on this,” Doctor said.

Steven Andres, who teaches about management information systems at San Diego State University, said people often assume that if you give a computer the same inputs no matter where you are that you “get the same outputs.”

But it doesn’t work that way, he said. “You’re seeing different things every moment of the day and the algorithms are always trying to change the results.”

Trump didn’t say what he based his tweets on. But conservative activist Paula Boylard had said in a weekend blog post that she found “blatant prioritization of left-leaning and anti-Trump media outlets” in search results.

Boylard based her judgments on the political leanings of media outlets on a list by Sharyl Attkisson, host of Sinclair Television’s “Full Measure” and author of “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, Think, and How You Vote.” Sinclair is a significant outlet for conservative views.

Trump began complaining about the issue earlier this month as social media companies moved to ban right-wing “Infowars” conspiracy theorist Alex Jonesfrom their platforms. The president also argues regularly — and falsely — that the news media avoid writing positive stories about him and his administration.

Jones is being sued for saying the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was staged. Jones has since said he believes the shooting did occur and has argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because he was acting as a journalist.

Trump has praised Jones’ “amazing” reputation.

The issue is also of concern on Capitol Hill, where the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., recently announced that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is scheduled to testify before the panel on Sept. 5 about the platform’s algorithms and content monitoring.

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