FairSearch - for the right result

Google Once Again Demonstrates Why "Trust Us" Is Not Enough

Google says its number one principle is to “do what’s best for the user.”

So it’s troubling when we see Google, once again, putting its own interests (advertising profits) ahead of consumers’.

The BBC recently uncovered how Google is profiting from illegal Olympic ticket ad sales. A consumer who was deceived by one of the illegal ads tells the BBC:

“So we typed into Google ‘Olympic tickets’ and at the very, very top of the page was a link to a company called LiveOlympicTickets.”

It was a sponsored ad at the top of the page, so we presumed it was a trusted official site, and we spent £750 on two tickets for my mum and dad to see the 1500m, which is what my dad really wanted.”

That last part is telling: Consumers trust Google. 

When Google betrays that trust – whether it’s by selling the top paid spot to a fraudulent company or by deceptively listing its own products and services ahead of competing vertical sites in natural search results – there’s potential for consumer harm.

According to the BBC report, Google was also displaying links to ads for illegal cannabis and fake ID card sellers, in addition to resellers of unofficial London 2012 Olympic tickets. And while the ads have now been removed – “after the BBC brought them to the company’s attention” – Google told the BBC “that the company keeps any money it might make from companies advertising illegal services before such adverts are removed.”

Coming on the heels of a U.S. criminal investigation, in which Google agreed to pay a $500 million fine for knowingly publishing online ads from Canadian pharmacies selling illegal drugs to U.S. customers, this demonstrates why “trust us” is not enough when it comes to Google.

Only scrutiny from antitrust enforcers and industry observers will ensure Google does not continue to abuse its search monopoly.