Out this week, Google’s latest Chrome browser now has more muscle to battle annoying online advertising.

Version 71 — for Windows, Mac and Linux — adds the ability for Chrome to detect websites with deceptive or overly-aggressive ad techniques, and block their ads.

Such sites, presenting what Google calls “abusive experiences,” will be blacklisted by the browser, and, 30 days after Google sends a warning notice, ads on that site won’t be shown to users visiting the site with Chrome — even if the ads have been served by Google’s platform. If desired, a user can disable the browser’s ad blocking engine.

‘Unprecedented features’ against abusive practices. Chris Olson, CEO of compliance and anti-malware monitoring service The Media Trust, told me via email that these abusive experience reports and the ability to remove ads from a displayed site “are all unprecedented features” for a browser.

Abusive practices include hidden click areas, site functions like “next” buttons that call an ad, phishing to trick users into revealing personal info, auto redirection to an ad, malware, ads designed to look like chat apps or system notifications and other misleading advertising.

These capabilities were announced last month, when Product Manager Vivek Sekhar said that previous protections in Chrome “did not go far enough,” because almost half of all abusive experiences were not being blocked. Google Chrome began blocking annoying or intrusive ads with the software release that came out in mid-February of 2018.

Previous Chrome versions offered such capabilities as preventing unwanted redirects or unwanted tabs/windows, automatic blocking of pop-up windows and limitations on autoplaying of video.

Other capabilities. Site owners can visit the Google Search Console’s Abusive Experiences Report to see if their site contains experiences that the tech giant says need correction or removal.

Version 71 can also now show a full-page warning for mobile sites with suspicious subscription forms, if they hide or disguise the fine print about what kinds of charges will be applied.

Additionally, Version 71 will not allow sites to generate speech unless a user has interacted with that page via some gesture, like a click. This is intended to prevent fraudulent “tech support” sites that employ speech synthesis to scare users into paying for help.

Why this matters to marketers.
In stepping up its game for browser enforcement of quality advertising, Google is not only helping consumers have more enjoyable online experiences, but also helping reputable advertisers and publishers who have suffered due to the growth of ad blockers — blockers that consumers often adopted to avoid these abusive experiences.

The Media Trust’s Olson also pointed to other potential ripple effects. He noted that, in addition to pressuring website owners to be more responsible in their advertising, these new Chrome powers will induce sites to “work closely with their upstream digital partners and third-party code-providers on rooting out malicious ads and protecting their webpages from unauthorized code, respectively.”

This, he said, will also “scale down the risk of their sites being hacked and of infringing a growing number of data privacy laws like GDPR and California’s Consumer Privacy Act.”


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