Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

The Dark Side of Paid Search 125

Posted by Zonk
from the is-the-darkside-stronger-no-no-quicker-easier dept.
Tough Lefty writes "A new study by McAfee's SiteAdvisor Web ratings finds that sponsored results from some of the biggest names in the search engine business contain spyware, spam, scams and other Internet menaces. The key findings were that major search engines returned risky sites in their search results for popular keywords and sponsored results contained two to four times as many dangerous sites as organic results. Overall, MSN search results had the lowest percentage (3.9%) of dangerous sites while Ask search results had the highest percentage (6.1%). Google was in between (5.3%). Check the comprehensive study for all the data."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Dark Side of Paid Search

Comments Filter:
  • And if the spam breaks open many years too soon (whoa-ho-ho)
    and if there is no room on my hard drive (whoa-hoa-hooooo)
    and if your head explodes with scam site search results too,
    I'll see you on the dark side of Paid Search (whooooaaaooo - hoooo whooaaaa-oh!)
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Friday May 12, 2006 @02:42PM (#15320573) Homepage Journal
    ...get something you didn't bargain for.

    Really, is this even remotely news?
    • ...get something you didn't bargain for.

      Really, is this even remotely news?


      Percentage of paid search results makes this at least mildly intesting.

      (mildly offtopic): Has anyone else noticed that when you click on a link in gmail, a new window opens entitled 'wyciwyg'? (before redirecting you to the link)

      *heh* What you click is what you get! If only there was some way (that didn't involve liberal beatings) of getting that into your average user's brain!
      • by Mr Z (6791)

        And, the results aren't too surprising. MSN came in lowest, but at the same time, it's probably the least dependent on generating ad revenue. Google's the biggest, but has a repuation to maintain, so it probably does at least some filtering of advertisers. Ask keeps tring to reinvent itself back to relevance...

        --Joe
        • And something tells me that you could have easily come up with an explanation if the results had been different.
          • by Mr Z (6791)

            Perhaps. My main point, though I could've done better articulating it, is that the only "news" here is that "Some web search results are dangerous; don't expect (Google|MSN|Ask|whoever) to be your nanny." The fact that most of the search engines had differences that were near the noise margin means there's no real strong conclusions you can draw.

            MSN's number is an obvious anomaly that could be explained multiple ways: Microsoft heavily vets its advertisers; advertisers don't think MSN's worth advertis

      • wyciwyg is "what you *cache* is what you get" and is the protocol Firefox uses to reference pages created purely using document.write().
        • That is interesting - thanks :-)

          I actually saw it in Galeon, but I'm sure its the same thing!
          • Galeon uses the same rendering engine as Firefox. (Though come to think of it, the fact that you saw the protocol at all is a bug -- Gecko embedders like Galeon, Firefox, etc, are supposed to hide the wyciwyg addresses. Firefox probably does a better job of hiding them, since I've not seen them in Firefox in recent versions.)
    • by generic-man (33649) on Friday May 12, 2006 @02:48PM (#15320637) Homepage Journal
      I just searched for "Babies" on Google and got this sponsored link in the sidebar:

      Babies
      Whatever you're looking for
      you can get it on eBay.
      www.eBay.com

      Google is directing you to baby sellers! Alert the press this is EVIL!!
      • I just searched for "Babies" on Google and got this sponsored link in the sidebar:
        Buy it Now: $300,000.00
      • Those are the most annoying ads: Meta ads that claim to have "everything you're looking for" and end up just being some crappy sort of meta page that has nothing immediately useful.

        Ebay's pretty obvious when it comes up. There are others that are more annoying.

        --Joe
      • i get ebay and amazon links for just about every goddamned thing i search for with google. they really need to clean up their ad system. maybe vetting advertisers or something would be the answer (hahahahah like that'd happen).

        i hope something changes soon because i am getting tired of unscrupulous asshats poisoning my search results.
      • lol

        The one for wife is funny too:

        Wife for less
        Looking for Wife?
        Find exactly what you want today
        www.eBay.com

        I already have one, but one for less sounds very enticing.
      • Who says money can't buy happiness [google.com]?

        Buy Happiness
        Whatever you're looking for
        you can get it on eBay.
        www.eBay.com

      • Gmail once gave me a targeted ad for black men's hair care products simply because the name of the sender was Tyrone. The only text in the message was "I'll look into it." Automated racial profiling? You bet. Eat your heart out Wal*Mart.
    • The 'obvious' tag bit me on the face when I read this.
    • It makes sense when you consider the source of Slashdot's news:

      http://news.google.com/news?q=google [google.com]

      Eric
      Reality vs. Fantasy: a juxtaposition [memwg.com]
    • Define dubious. The article only names a few of the most egregious phrases. I read this to mean that links returned by search engines may be malicious.
    • dubious links?

      How is clicking on the first result from a Google search dubious?
      I have a mental filter which ignores those, but I was with an aunt who did a Google search and naturally clicked on the first result before I could yell "no, don't click those ones!"

      How can you expect the general public to not think the first results from the best search engine aren't safe? That's like putting an exit ramp off of I95 (along the US east coast) which takes the cars off a cliff...then calling anyone who accident
    • i think this is more to illuminate the idea Google and others try to spread that paid links != dubious links. Guess what, America! Nothing's more dubious than a bought-and-paid-for "looka me i'm beyond reproach" tag!
    • What makes it news is that someone in the corporate world noticed and actually said something about it. Many other corporations are too busy fleecing the suckers who click those links.
  • I guess all these years of automatically ignoring and scrolling past the "sponsored" results has paid off.
  • From TFA... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Foolicious (895952) on Friday May 12, 2006 @02:47PM (#15320622)
    "Users can't count on search engines to protect them; to the contrary, we find that search result rankings often do not reflect site safety" Are users really depending on search engines to protect them? Even foolish users?
    • Look, 90% of todays Intarweb population consists of fools and idiots. What do you expect?!

      • Look, 90% of todays Intarweb population consists of fools and idiots. What do you expect?!

        There's so much truth in that it may end up in a sig sometime soon.

    • >>> "Are users really depending on search engines to protect them? Even foolish users?"

      No but some people don't expect Google to sell them down the river for a few bucks to some spammer/scammer. Can't anyone with money uphold there morals?
    • Are users really depending on search engines to protect them? Even foolish users?

      It's actually a pretty smart thing to do. Novices can't tell the difference between a legitimate site and a scam just by looking at them, but if they know Google ranks search results by popularity, they can assume the legitimate site will be more popular (and thus rank higher) than any scams. Also, businesses willing to pay for advertising (not including spam) are usually legitimate.

      There are still some users who are too dumb
  • Paradox (Score:4, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Friday May 12, 2006 @02:50PM (#15320659)
    We have a central organisation that handles domain use and the arising domain disputes.
    Why we don't have a central organisation that bans spyware/malware sites? Unlike porn, where religious and all kinds of debates open, the worst cases of malware are obvious and good for nothing.

    Wouldn't it seem odd to someone if drug dealers advertised their services in newspaper ads? Why isn't it odd they are allowed to reach audience via controlled ads on the search engines?

    We also have Yahoo/Ask/Google's ability to filter and review their own ads and remove offensive ads. They also remove them now, but kinda sloow.. kinda lazy... you know... just enough not to hurt their revenue and not be blamed by the public they're doing nothing.

    We also have Google eagerly promoting their typosquatting service for domains while saying they don't.

    It's a nice example of what greed makes good companies do.
    • Why we don't have a central organisation that bans spyware/malware sites? Unlike porn, where religious and all kinds of debates open, the worst cases of malware are obvious and good for nothing.

      Because there will always be one sucker who is poerfectly willing to give up their spare processor cycles and demographic info in exchange for a taskbar icon that tells them what temperature it is outside. It's a sad argument, but a valid one for the purveyors of crapware.

      Wouldn't it seem odd to someone if drug de

      • Because there will always be one sucker who is poerfectly willing to give up their spare processor cycles and demographic info in exchange for a taskbar icon that tells them what temperature it is outside.

        What kind of an argument is that? First if he can't access the site because it's filtered how he will install anything.

        And second, if 0.001% of a population prefers to be robbed and tortured for fun, does it mean that robbery and torture should be legal for the rest 99.999% ?
        • Re:Paradox (Score:1, Redundant)

          by Rob T Firefly (844560)
          What kind of an argument is that?

          Not mine, certainly. I'm just playing devil's advocate, and that's the sort of uproar I believe some outside agency declaring their sites blocked would cause in that industry. (And it is an industry.)

          Consider how much crapware is actively installed by users who click through the EULA without a second thought, completely missing the fact that they just provided some entity permission to screw their machine and/or privacy, of the sort that might actually stand up in court.

          • Which serves to illustrate the problems with EULAs currently. It's gotten absurd that these things have gotten so out of hand that you agree to not make derrogatory comments about the company or its products. I guess I violated that one with SOE multiple times.

            Isn't there something in contract law about agreements that force you to give up certain rights are not binding?
            Yet, a company can draft a ridiculous EULA and it's taken as gospel truth and the law.
            That really needs to change.

    • Re:Paradox (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:40PM (#15321088)
      Wouldn't it seem odd to someone if drug dealers advertised their services in newspaper ads?
      People providing, for example, "medical" marijuana in California in violation of federal law (i.e., "drug dealers") do advertise in newspapers, particularly the free urban weeklies -- which, being free for "users" (i.e., "readers") to access, are pretty much the best dead-tree newspaper equivalent of free public search engines, as far as advertising. And let's not even get started on prostitution.
      Why isn't it odd they are allowed to reach audience via controlled ads on the search engines?
      You seem to equivocating with the use of "they" here; the article is not about drug dealers being able to reach users via paid search engine ads. Drug dealers are not the same thing as people who sites may provide the download of "dangerous" content, which is often (even if unwelcome to many users) not illegal.
      We also have Yahoo/Ask/Google's ability to filter and review their own ads and remove offensive ads.
      Offensive is subjective. People are offended by different things. You'd probably be a lot less happy if everything anyone found "offensive" was swiftly and immediately removed from every search engine. Sure, the stuff you don't like would be gone, but I'd bet you'd find much of the stuff you do like would be gone too.
      • Re:Paradox (Score:3, Funny)

        by rthille (8526)
        If they paid attention to what I found offensive, everyone would have a much harder time finding information about Microsoft products...
  • Overall, MSN search results had the lowest percentage (3.9%) of dangerous sites while Ask search results had the highest percentage (6.1%). Google was in between (5.3%). Check the comprehensive study for all the data."

    Microsoft's Strider HoneyMonkey Exploit Detection System seems to be working.

    • I think that a pro-Microsoftie has taken over Zonk's account... he permitted something good to be said about Microsoft... on Slashdot!
  • hmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Once again, MSN proves to be the superior choice when it comes to search engine
    • Or perhaps the sponsored links suck because nobody wants to be on MSN because nobody uses MSN because MSN sucks?
    • Actually, if you put aside the Microsoft-bashing, MSN's search engine is actually pretty good. It's no google, but for certain competitive industries prone to blackhat SEO tactics, MSN is not so polluted because the blackhats utilize cloaking and feed their spam to Googlebot and Google's IP range, and pretty much ignore the rest. So, sometimes when I can't find what I'm looking for on Google after drilling down to 12-13 pages I'll turn to MSN or Yahoo and find what I need within a couple of pages' worth of
  • It would be nice if search engines would look for known exploits, and they should autocheck the top hits on the top searches.

  • by syphax (189065) on Friday May 12, 2006 @02:59PM (#15320741) Journal

    It's hardly surprising, but I don't trust the AV companies. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but they simply have an interest in keep in us scared about viruses and such so that we buy their products.

    When SiteAdvisor was independent, I felt I could trust it (partly because they it founded by geeks). Of course, I had no idea how they planned to stay in business, but as a free service it was great. Now I have the perception, at least, that it could have an agenda beyond objective detection of spyware etc. (mainly, scaring the bejeezus out of us).
    • I was very unhappy when I heard that McAfee bought SiteAdvisor. I had recommended SiteAdvisor to a few clients who's kids were repeatedly screwing up thier machines, and it really seemed useful, seemed to help. I'm sure that McE will have SiteAdvisor all screwed up in a matter of months. Can't blame the guys that came up with SA, hope they got good money and retired to Tahiti or sumpin'...

      It's a tough place to be - explaining to mom or dad why they are again paying me to scrape junior's machine. It's an h

  • by bigattichouse (527527) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:04PM (#15320781) Homepage
    Ok.. so we need an "anti-digg", where you bookmark a site and tag it with negative tags... then abrowser plugin to set your browser to have a threshold of allowed "badness".. the finally a "meta filter" on google to strip out results from crap you don't want.
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:07PM (#15320801) Homepage Journal
    The most dangerous keywords include "free screensavers," "bearshare," "kazaa," "download music" and "free games."

    OMG LOOK at those CUTE LI'L Puppies and Kittens on www.screensavers.com !!111 How can a website with LIKE SO MUCH Cuteness be evil ????!!!

    screensavers.com just DESERVES it's top "Sponsored Link" spot in Google's results!!1

    kthxbye!!

  • It would rock if some search engine decided to not index content that had ActiveX controls on it. Or sites that SiteAdvisor (or some other heuristic) indicates is unsafe. It would cut the revenue stream from these sites fairly quickly. I would probably pay for such a service if it meant that it cut revenue from these jerks.

    Not that any of this is any excuse for the foolish security flaws (IE,running as admin) and naive user actions (installing anything, ignoring EULAs, etc.).
  • by Goblez (928516) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:22PM (#15320895)

    Having been exposed to the Internet at a young age (for both it and myself), I've learned over the years never to touch Ads. Whether benign looking links in my Gmail to the annoying flash ads, there is no way I'm touching them. If I need a product, I find the manufacturer or vendor's website and do what I need to there.

    So I pose the question, how long will the ad based revenue system remain relevant once your common internetite learns this lesson?

    • So I pose the question, how long will the ad based revenue system remain relevant once your common internetite learns this lesson?
      About as long as advertising-based revenue systems in TV, dead-tree media, and elsewher will remain relevant.
    • Having been exposed to the Internet at a young age (for both it and myself), I've learned over the years never to touch Ads. Whether benign looking links in my Gmail to the annoying flash ads, there is no way I'm touching them. If I need a product, I find the manufacturer or vendor's website and do what I need to there.

      So I pose the question, how long will the ad based revenue system remain relevant once your common internetite learns this lesson?

      I don't think they will learn TBH. If they do, well I w

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:24PM (#15320925)
    Why isn't Google performing a value added function here of flagging all sites they've spidered for the following malware before presenting them as search results:

    1: Virus
    2: Attempted AdWare installs
    3: Attempted Spyware installs
    4: ActiveX controls
    5: Java required
    6: Anything else that it attempts to install when you visit
    7: Sites that disable, or attempt to, your browser features like Right Click.
    8: Sites that are only redirection sites.

    and most of all
    are you ready?

    9: Sites that make themselves anywhere from hard to impossible to exit from afterwards without, at minimum, killing your browser process.

    Flagging questionable, along with outright bad, sites would protect users, while likely reducing their traffic - which is what they deserve to have happen to them. More than twice I've used the Google cache to read a site's static content rather than risk visiting them directly.

    And while they're at it, add an easily clickable link to tell Google that this site appears gone, or substantially changed from the search result summary and ought to be re-spidered ASAP would be nice too. Enlist your users in identifying bad search results.

    Someone who does all this would have a strong hold on my search business.

  • I become a milli0naire in just one wEek! You too can jo1n my elite circle off close personel frieNds by folowign my "Guranteeed for Success" pamplet. Clik h3re for more detai1s.
  • Duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:32PM (#15321008)
    From TFA:
    The most dangerous keywords include "free screensavers," "bearshare," "kazaa," "download music" and "free games."
    Er, so the results on searches specifically for products that include spyware are particularly likely to include spyware. Well, duh.
    Users can't count on search engines to protect them; to the contrary, we find that search result rankings often do not reflect site safety.
    Again, duh. The purpose of search ranking (particularly outside of sponsored results) is rather overtly to reflect relevance. Since relevance is pretty much orthogonal to (in cases where the search is for "kazaa" or "bearshare", perhaps opposed to) safety, it should come as no surprise that search rankings don't have any particularly consistent relation to safety. Expecting that it would is like expecting that you can use the price of a vehicle as a proxy for its gas mileage.
  • Scammers and spammers make an incredible amount of money, and a lot use internet users seem to think that a willingness to pay for advertising equals credibility because so few people fall for it! But in actuality, 3-7% of phishes are successful. And the info garnered from spyware is worth a great deal more than the cost of advertsising.
  • Has a Mcaffee sponsored "comprehensive survey" ever yelded non-fear mongering results?

    Have they ever come out and said: "This problem we're investigating... turns out not to be so bad after all, nothing to be alarmed about".

    They have a serious conflict of interest. They are worse than investment banks publishing research on companies they own shares in.
    An apt comparison may be to pharmaceuticals publishing forecasts for the spread of diseases for which they hold the patents for the cure.

    Until I'll see indep
  • click here (Score:4, Interesting)

    by esmrg (869061) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:59PM (#15321246)
    sponsored results
    OK, it can cost a bit of money to get placed in sponsored results. So where does this money come from, when the sites paying for this high visibilty purportedly offer content for free?

    We all knew the answer to that, before this article.

    So how financially naive do you have be to click on a sponsored link with 'free' in the description - and not assume there is a hidden string attached?

    That is like giving a $20 bill to the guy selling gum on the street in mexico and expecting change. In fact, I knew someone who did something similar to that in thailand. He didn't understand the language or the currency system, so he gave the peddler on the street his entire wad of bills and asked him to take what he owed him. The peddler took the money and ran off. That was his entire budget for the trip.

    If clicking sponsored links is commonplace on the internet, common sense has degenerated to moronic levels.

    -- "Common sense is for common people." - Dr. Piche
  • It is not the search engines responsibility to filter websites having spyware/adware, but your browser's responsibility to not let it function.
  • Now, is it because no one bothers to pay MSN to place their dangerous site in the search? Or is it because MSN filters better?
  • by Carcass666 (539381) on Friday May 12, 2006 @07:25PM (#15322645)

    Representatives from the automotive insurance industry released a self-authored report yesterday that confirmed most freeways lead people through areas that are heavy in traffic, subject to increased probability of colissions and even vandalism and crime.

    "I was shocked that people would create a place to drive my car without making sure there was no possiblity of me or my vehicle getting injured," stated a randomly selected driver.

    Auto insurance representatives questioned for the story said the frightening study proves that their product (which provides no guaranteed protection against auto collisions) is absolutely essential to safe driving. When asked why they spend millions of dollars to make sure they are not held liable in all but the most obvious of cases, insurance representatives had not comment, but reminded everybody how dangerous freeways are, and suggested that people should hold the state liable for offering such questional places for people to drive their cars in the first place.

  • it's been discovered that predators prefer to hang out near watering holes, where all the zebra go.
  • OK, just for a test - set your cookie restrictions to prompt for everything - type "true" into Google search, and you will prompted to allow true.com, the online dating service, to put a cookie on your system.

    Sleaazy!
  • Okay, so some of the ads go to businesses that exist for the purpose of doing harm. I wonder how that compares to the Yellow Pages and Newspsper advertising? How many of their advertisers are not legitimate? How many of their advertisers will give you something you don't want? Is this problem really unique to search engines?

HELP!!!! I'm being held prisoner in /usr/games/lib!

Working...