Google says all advertisers will now be subject to verification checks

Political ad restrictions will be expanded across the board after a rise in coronavirus-related scams

Google has announced that, starting this summer, all advertisers will have to be verified before they are allowed to buy ad space on the search engine’s platform.

The announcement is Google’s latest effort to make their advertising practices more transparent, following the recent surge in online coronavirus scams, which take advantage of users’ fear of contracting the virus by selling fake medical masks. Earlier this week, the NCSC reported that it had taken down 2,000 online scams, of which 471 were from fake online shops.

Director of Product Management, Ads Integrity John Canfield, said that “advertisers will be required to complete a verification program in order to buy ads on our network”.

“Advertisers will need to submit personal identification, business incorporation documents or other information that proves who they are and the country in which they operate. Beginning this summer, users will start to see disclosures that list this information about the advertiser behind the ads they see,” he explained.

Prior to this decision, only political advertisers had to be verified by Google in order to run election ads on their platform. Since introducing the programme in 2018, Google has verified political advertisers in 30 countries.

As part of the new initiative, Google will start verifying advertisers in phases in the United States, before expanding the programme worldwide. The tech giant predicts that the process will take a few years to complete.

“This change will make it easier for people to understand who the advertiser is behind the ads they see from Google and help them make more informed decisions when using our advertising controls,” wrote Canfield. "It will also help support the health of the digital advertising ecosystem by detecting bad actors and limiting their attempts to misrepresent themselves.”

The news comes after Google issued a warning to users working from home during the lockdown about a rise in the number of coronavirus-based phishing attacks, many of which are being sent as emails.

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