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July 21, 2006

Reviewer Finds Google’s Click Fraud Detection Practices “Reasonable”

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The Google Blog posted the results of the independent study conducted to assess their click fraud detection practices as per the Lanes Gift settlement. The study was conducted by Dr. Alexander Tuzhilin, a professor of informational systems at NYU, and found that Google “makes reasonable efforts” to detect click fraud. Google seems pretty satisfied with this finding, as it supports what they’ve been saying all along.

I haven’t read the entire 47 page document, but from what I have read it sounds very pro-Google. Tuzhilin did, however, say he did not have enough evidence to rule that Google’s methods “work well” or removed “most” of the invalid clicks, just that they did a reasonable job. Is that enough?

In the report Tuzhilin does mention a previously unknown Google policy change that occurred in March 2005. According to Tuzhilin, during that time Google finally quit double-billing advertisers when customers clicked twice on the same ad. He criticized Google for taking two years to stop the double-click billing practice. I would criticize them for taking more than a year to tell anyone about it.

Also interesting, based on the report Tuzhilin only had access to “descriptions” of Google’s filtering methods, log generation, conversion system, and other such information. With the exception of the Google-lead demos he witnessed (three to be exact), he didn’t get to venture much on his own. It looks like he was left to review what Google gave him and merely interview a dozen or so members of Google’s Click Quality Team.

Again, is that enough? Did that really give him a good understanding about what’s going on? I’m skeptical, as usual.

In a separate court filing, Google responded to the objections voiced over its $90 million settlement, asking the judge to give final approval for the settlement. Startling to me, only 51 class members submitted written objections to Google. Fifty-one. The document breaks it down further:

“Out of the 51 objections, ten were submitted by class members who reside outside of the United States, and who presumably lack familiarity with the American legal system. Eight of the 51 objections objected to the attorneys’ fees provision only and did take issue with any other aspect of the settlement. Further, one of the objectors objected on the ground that Google should have to pay nothing, because Google has done nothing wrong and should not be liable. Another one, who objected only to the attorneys’ fess provision, apparently holds the same view, since he wrote that he is “very happy with Google’s advertising program”. And three others objected, in part, on the ground that this case cannot properly be certified as a class action – as fact which, if true, would prevent any recovery by the class.”

It’s important to note that although the Court invited any class member to submit a written objection, it forbade parties who were not named in the suit from doing so. Google admitted they did receive objections from non-suit members, though they didn’t reveal how many, and they are now asking that those be struck from the record.

In the document, Google defends both the size of the settlement $90 million settlement and says that payment in the form of credit is “fair, adequate and reasonable”. You can read Google’s full response to the objections here.

I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about this next week. We would encourage advertisers to read both documents very carefully, as they will give you valuable insights into Google and the way they handle click fraud.

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