The BBC found that Google couldn’t stop the “sister” website advertising on search engines, even though it promised to solve the problem.
Advertising on unofficial services that sell government documents such as travel permits and driver’s licenses violates Google’s own rules.
But every time the BBC searched during the 12 months, it found an ad for an expensive third-party seller.
Google said in a statement that it had removed billions of rule-violating ads.
What’s the problem?
In the UK, changing your driver’s license address is free, but Google consistently displayed ads for a service that charges £ 49.99.
Applying for an Esta travel permit to visit the United States must be under $ 14 (£ 10), but Google has repeatedly allowed website ads to cost more than $ 80.
In Google search results, ads are similar to organic search results and appear at the top of the list.
Such websites are not illegal and customers will continue to have access to the documents they have applied for.
However, some companies charge more than five times as much as the official website.
“They are sisters, not scams,” said Martin Lewis, founder of the website Money Saving Expert.
“They aren’t stealing your money, they’re charging you for something completely meaningless.”
Some justify the price by providing support to those who are struggling with the application.
Advertising such services violates Google’s own policies.
What did the survey find?
October 2018, The BBC has brought some ads that get Google’s attention It broke that rule.
A month later, Google goes to the BBC Developed machine learning system It can prevent the ad from reappearing.
At that time, it only banned ads for third-party services that charge higher than the official government website.
But in May 2020 Changed policy Prohibit “advertising of documents and / or services that can be obtained directly from government or delegated providers,” including “providing assistance in obtaining these products or services.”
Since that change, the BBC has repeated the same series of Google searches on seven separate occasions over a 12-month period.
Every time I had an ad for an expensive third party service on my next search.
Some websites continued to appear in ads even after they were flagged by Google in the reporting tools.
Why is Google not fixing the issue?
Professor Sandra Watcher of the Oxford Internet Institute said:
However, trying to catch a rule violator is a “cat and mouse” game, as companies can change their tactics and reappear.
“Consumers trust Google. What’s happening in Google is expected to be legal,” said Professor Wachter.
“If they know that there is a particular problem there, they need to take more precautions.”
Travel permit ads aren’t the only thing that slips through Google’s system.
News site in early April This Is Money has set up a fake online investment company And I was able to promote it on Google.
In May 2020, the BBC discovered that suspected fraudulent stores outperformed Google’s search and shopping results for weeks, encouraging customers to pay for technology by wire transfer.
Last week, the BBC found another fake gadget store at the top of Google’s search results when customers were looking for gadgets such as the iPhone 12, Samsung S21, and Sony headphones.
Google then removed the store from the results.
What did Google say?
In a statement, Google has “strict policies governing the types of ads and advertisers allowed on the platform. Only the government or its delegated providers allow advertising of official documents or services.”
He said he used machine learning and human reviewers to identify the issue and removed 3.1 billion ads that violated the policy in 2020.
In addition, in January 2021, we began verifying advertisers on the platform.
Where can I find reliable services?
“Whenever you use a major search engine, including Google, you should look for the“ advertising ”label,” says Lewis.
“If you see a small box with” ads “on the left, the only reason you’re there is because you’re paying for it. Scroll down below all ads to find the winner of a natural search. “
If you are looking for one of the government documents listed in this article, please visit the official website below.
UK driver’s license
You can freely change the name and address of your driver’s license with. gov.uk/change-address-driving-licence..
Fees for other changes are gov.uk/driving-licence-fees website.
United States Esta
Esta costs $ 14 (£ 10) and is available at the following URL: esta.cbp.dhs.gov
Applying for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ETA) costs $ 7 CAD (£ 4.10).The official website is canada.ca
Applying for the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) costs $ 20 AUD (£ 11.15).The official website is immi.homeaffairs.gov.au