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Yahoo Rapped Over Funding Spyware -- Isn't It Overdue For Source Selection To Be Allowed?

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How Yahoo Funds Spyware out now by spyware researcher/activist Ben Edelman looks at how Yahoo ads run in plenty of places beyond Yahoo, including syndication partners he says make use of spyware or adware. It raises again the question of why the major search engines are dragging their feet on letting people pick-and-choose where their ads will run?

Edelman's written similarly of Google before and provides links to those reports in this latest one. However, he feels he encounters Yahoo ads more in spyware-infected PCs than those from other ad networks. He looks closely at Yahoo ads being distributed through Claria, eXact Advertising and Direct Revenue. He also takes aim that Yahoo should be doing better disclosure of such deals to its advertisers.

Ultimately, if Yahoo can't do better policing, he says advertisers should be able to pick-and-choose where they appear. I agree. So do most advertisers I talk with. I just surveyed a room of them at our SES San Jose show last month, and virtually everyone agreed they should be able to choose exactly where they appear.

As a reminder, among the majors, only Google currently offers site exclusion -- but only for its contextual ads. See our past post, New Google AdWords Site Targeting Allows Advertisers To Pick & Choose, for more info. You still can't exclude more than 25 sites. However, site targeting is an opposite feature where you can pick-and-choose exactly the sites you want, rather than just excluding some.

I'm honestly amazed -- actually appalled -- that the majors haven't done more to give advertisers choice here. Let's just recap a few reasons why:

  • It would help eliminate click fraud - BlowSearch Offers Source Exclusion; When Will The Majors Do The Same? on the blog from March explains how BlowSearch decided to allow source/site exclusion -- and Mirago did the same way back in 2003. Is there a site you think is generating fraudulent clicks? Site exclusion would allow you to get off that site. Moreover, if enough advertisers opt-out of a site, you're building a database of sites you might want to blacklist.
     
  • It would prevent embarrassment - That's what happened to Kraft, when it found its contextual ads running in Google showing up on a pro-white web site. As mentioned, Google's site exclusion solves this -- but only for the contextual side of the house. Search targeted ads still lack exclusion.
     
  • It might prevent legal liabilities: As Edelman's report points out, there might be some legal issues with advertisers who inadvertently support spyware. Legal issues also came up over Ask Jeeves putting ads on a BitTorrent search engine

The most important reason is that it's the right thing to do. I've talked for years about how search advertising is so rudimentary, as if you wanted to buy a TV ad to run in association with ER on NBC but are instead told you have to have your ad run with every program, throughout the day.

Let people pick and choose. It's not only right -- it's overdue to be offered as this industry matures.

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