Google Gives Users The Finger One More Time

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The Internet is one kickass place – survey after survey continue to show that cybercriminals are picking off unaware/undereducated users, as if they were shooting fish in a barrel. And Google, the “Do No Evil” company has just made it easier for the bad guys to take aim at you, and me. Read on.

As I reported in March of last year – Search Engine Results – More Malware Surprises Than Ever!

Cyber criminals have bumped up the level of search engine malware.

One in five search topics lead to malware…………

Google search results produced 38 percent of overall search engine malware.

Luckily, those users in the know – were aware that steps could be taken to mitigate the risk of an infection transmitted through a bad search engine result. The tool of choice – one I have long recommended to regular readers here – has been WOT (Web of Trust).

WOT, one of the most downloaded Firefox Add-ons at the Mozilla add-on site, (also compatible with Internet Explorer and Chrome), is a free Internet Browser resource which  investigates web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams – helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

For example, here’s a Google search in which WOT indicates which sites are safe. Notice the unsafe (red) sites, in the Google ads!

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You can now scratch the reputation icon associated with the Google ads shown in the previous screen capture. Here’s the bad news. Google has reversed course, and no longer (as of April 13) allows a reputation assessment icon (in other words – a SAFETY assessment icon), to be displayed on Google sponsored ads.

According to WOT – “Due to Google’s policy change, WOT and some other similar tools can no longer show reputations for sponsored links on Google’s search results, or elsewhere on Google ads.”

In the following screen capture (taken today), you’ll notice WOT’s reputation icon (the green circle), attached to generic search results. You’ll also notice, on the TigerDirect (a Google ad), a reputation assessment is no longer available.

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In my view, Google can take its “Do No Evil” motto, and “shove it where the sun don’t shine”. No matter the reasoning behind this move – the net result is, Internet surfers are at more risk than they were last week. Tell me that’s not EVIL!

A big “thank you” to regular reader Michael F. for the heads up.

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26 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Google, Internet Safety Tools, Software, WOT (Web of Trust)

26 responses to “Google Gives Users The Finger One More Time

  1. Reblogged this on Share At Ease and commented:
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  2. Bill,

    It is all about the money… Maybe we all should start exploring other options. I agree, EVIL !!!!!!

    Rick

    • Hey Rick,

      That’s it in a nutshell – “It is all about the money”.

      Little wonder that these guys are up against it with virtually every government in the world. It’ll be interesting to see how hard the FCC comes down on them. Hopefully, like a ton of bricks.

      Best,

      Bill

  3. Interesting, I had no idea this was happening. Nice article!

  4. You make a compelling case, & yes they do act like hypocrites.

  5. Hi Bill,
    I wonder if Google understands many users will learn never to click on sponsored sites, not that I have done in years. The other solutions to use Bing, which really is very good for most searches, especially commerce related inquiries.
    The fact is Google began to ruin their search results when they used google+ in the algorithm.
    Thanks again.
    Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      I agree – the Google+ hits really annoy me. It feels as if I’ve got someone looking over my shoulder. Creepy.

      Like you, I never (I don’t think I’ve ever) click on sponsored ads. I’ll be sure to spend more time with Bing in future.

      Best,

      Bill

  6. delenn13

    I hadn’t noticed because I have been using Startpage and DuckDuckGo. But I am not surprised. As Rick said…It’s all about the money.

    I have always used WOT as a guide..because I have seen them ruin many a website with their over zealous scouts. The ratings would put me on alert and i would make my decision. But the ratings are still on Startpage and DuckDuckGo.

    • Hey Delenn13,

      Unfortunately, since both Startpage and DuckDuckGo are driven by the Google engine, they both lack the rep ratings on sponsored links (ads). Just checked a bunch. I wish it wasn’t so – but……

      Have to agree with you on the nutbars at WOT (way too much power). I’ve had more than the occasional argument with those guys. Won a few – lost a few more. :)

      They don’t seem interested in fairness – despite evidence that they’re wrong.

      Best,

      Bill

      • delenn13

        ROFL..oh, the ads. You mean those ads I totally ignore and have always ignored..those ads???? Hmmm,yea you are correct. But since I totally ignore(you get my point?) those ads…I really don’t care. I use a search engine to search…To buy stuff….I generally already have an idea where I am buying. Guess I am odd.

        • Hey Delenn13,

          Nope – that doesn’t make you odd (unless, I’m odd too; hmm, now that I think about it :) ), I have never clicked on a Google ad.

          Believe it or not – my buying is mostly impacted by what’s in the flyers delivered with the newspaper. Now that’s odd. :)

          Best,

          Bill

  7. I agree partly only.This is not the best move on Google part, and their advertising network should incorporate better AV and security checks. However, this does not affect browsing security that much. Let me explain :

    First, Google is much better at detecting and preventing malware. Although WOT incorporates blacklists, Google does so too. Additionally, pretty harmless sites can be infected, so green WOT ratings does not mean a safe site. There were massive WordPress infections just recently and such things (on smaller scale) happen all the time. So malware detection engines (like used by Google) are better here.

    Next about other types of safety. As long as there are no drive-by downloads on page (aka malware), WOT ratings are shown on entering particular page. So the visitors are warned about the reputation, and can decide on their own if they should close the window or not.

    By the way, reputation Safety (just check FB ratings on WOT).

    • Hi Giedrius,

      Good – we agree in principle that Google has not made the “best move”. But, let me take it one step further – the optics show Google in a less than flattering light. On the other hand, Google is expert at controlling user backlash. At least for now.

      While I agree that Google has made strong headway in the last year or so, in detecting and preventing malware, any reduction in a users ability to impact their own security cannot be viewed as a positive step. Trust, is not something I personally associate with Google – and, I suspect, I’m hardly alone in holding this view.

      We know that there are no perfect security solutions, and WOT is far from perfect – but, to deny a user the use of any tool that may improve interactive security seems counterproductive.

      A thoughtful comment and your points should be considered. Thank you.

      Best,

      Bill

  8. Bob Slyker

    Hey Bill,

    When you speak about our most often turned to search engine and highly praised browser you hit a nerve with me.

    I love them intercepting terrorist (“bad Guys”) activity but it is to easy for us to hit that irretrievable slippery slope to a totalitarian regime.

    The American National Security Agency has an alarmingly close relationship with Google (is this where we have to put on our tin foil hats? LOL)

    FYI: http://insidegoogle.com/

    PS: I agree Google has crossed the line (repeatedly) because we put to much stock in convince and thus put our personal privacy in jeopardy.

    Thanks “Yoda”

    Best,

    Bob

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the link – very interesting – required reading (I’ll post it into tomorrow’s TNN). I’ve added the site to my Blogroll.

      We may have reached the point where a tin foil hat should now be part of our wardrobe. :)

      On a more serious note – your point that we have traded our privacy (and, continue to do so), for the sake of convenience, strikes a chord. Given the available search engine options – Startpage and DuckDuckGo – being just 2 which are designed to protect privacy, I find it slightly frustrating to find so many users who are accepting of the status quo.

      But, you’ve touched on the overriding issue – government access to the entirety of our online lives. That’s the issue we must address.

      Always great to hear from you. Gives me opportunity to vent my spleen. :)

      Best,

      Bill

  9. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    Like most of the commenters on this topic, I don’t think I have ever clicked a Google sponsored ad. One is only asking for trouble there.
    As for WOT, I agree that its rankings can only be used as a guide only. For example, a state government site that enforces collection of traffic fines here in Australia, is flagged as red in WOT. Still, WOT is better than nothing.
    Google are getting creepier by the minute. They have a lot of power now, and obviously are using that for their benefit, not ours. I hope something can be done about this, someone of authority to tell them to pull their heads in.
    My two bobs worth, good article.
    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      It’s amazing isn’t it? Those in the know – KNOW.

      You’ll have to forgive me for laughing at the fact that the “traffic fine thieves” get a WOT red flag. Couldn’t happen to a better crew. :)

      If there’s any justice – you and I may get our wish, and see Google flogged by the appropriate authorities. But, as we discussed any number of times – politicians are a spineless, gutless, corruptible bunch of reprobates. More and more, it looks as if we’ll have to take matters into our own hands. Boycotting all Google products seems like a good place to start. I’m dreaming here – or is that a nightmare? :)

      Best,

      Bill

  10. dcolbert@optonline.net

    I quit googling months ago and started DuckDuckGo-ing Since I have WOT on my Firefox, I felt safe in doing so.

    I was not aware that DDG uses Google or that WOT was available for it. Thanks to all of your readers that contribute all of the great posts!

    In case you have not heard, BillP Studios has Win Patrol 2012 Pro on sale for $0.99 ( Life Time License !!! ) Tuesday 4/16 and Wednesday 4/17. http://www.winpatrol.com/ Don’t leave home without it.

    Now, let me think . . . .
    Can I click on “Post Comment” now? . . .

    Yes, I think so . . . . . . :>)

    • Hey Hipockets,

      Good to see that finger is back online. :)

      Thanks for the tip on WinPatrol – what a deal! I’ve posted that into today’s TNN.

      Best,

      Bill

  11. delenn13

    It’s WinPatrol..What are you waiting for? GET IT!

    Two Day Only 99 Cent Experimental Sale!

    This is a lifetime license.

    Sorry i just got wind of this this morning..”As in the past, this will be a limited time only “experiment” starting at Noon EST on Monday, April 16th 2012 and will end Noon EST on Wednesday April 18th, 2012.”

    Gotta go..

  12. Hi Bill,

    This is the reason I always think that there should be atleast two competitors in a field to override the cruelty by the one, glad we got Facebook though I dont use it that much and after the timeline change I repel from it. I like Big G, but things like this force me to wish for a new search engine from competitors say fb.

    Bill, did you change something in the commenting system here? I cant comment as I used to do normally. Its asking to login to wordpress account though I am logged in to my gravatar account, strange what is happening now ?