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The Dark Side of Paid Search 125

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."
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The Dark Side of Paid Search

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  • From TFA... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Foolicious ( 895952 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:47PM (#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?
  • ...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!
  • Paradox (Score:4, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:50PM (#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.
  • by syphax ( 189065 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @03:59PM (#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).
  • by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @04:04PM (#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 Goblez ( 928516 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @04:22PM (#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?

  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @04:24PM (#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.

  • Re:Paradox (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @04:40PM (#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.
  • click here (Score:4, Interesting)

    by esmrg ( 869061 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @04:59PM (#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

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI