Top Google Play game accused of ad fraud

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/01/15/top-google-play-game-accused-o.html

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#2

What does this have to do with us? It sounds like they might be defrauding advertisers. But it’s not as if they’re selling Monopoly Bitcoin.

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#3

Would I be remiss in asking if the actual game is any good?

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#4

It took me a minute to figure out what was meant by “ad fraud”.

So, basically, it’s a free to play game that makes ad revenue that is played for the most part by bots. Those bots presumably click through some ads and make plenty of money for the app maker. Advertisers don’t want to pay to have bots see their ads.

I feel like that last paragraph is selling this as a consumer protection issue. But unless I’m missing a key detail, I don’t see how there is any problem on that front. As a human being, if I download the game (assuming it’s a real game) and play it and have fun (or find it lousy and delete it), I haven’t been taken for anything.

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#5

Tech co sets up system for selling ad space in games. Games are developed. Someone develops automated game playing tech. Ads are assumed to be seen. Advertisers are defrauded. Colour me surprised about none of this.

The old adage of “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted - I just don’t know which half” seems to have been overtaken. Probably more like 90%?

@beschizza PS it’s a strong incentive (not incentivize).

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#6

I haven’t been taken for anything.

There is a “tragedy of the commons” idea here where if the ad-funded model becomes too fraudulent, the money will dry up and the ad-driven version of the free to play model will end. Which would harm consumers because we presumably gain some kind of benefit from the ad-driven free to play model.

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#7

A strong incentivize not to deal with the problem.

Is the bastard verb incentivize now replacing the noun it evolved from?

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#8

Off topic, but I find this quotation very insightful. It’s really not just about advertising, but about pretty nearly everything. The work we do at our jobs, works of art people create, all kinds of things. We have to put in the effort, knowing that in hindsight it will likely mostly be wasted or, in many cases, that all of it will be wasted because it will be someone else who is doing the useful part.

We’ve got this idea that we ought to revere people who are successful, and act like they must have brought the special something that made them succeed where others failed. I think a more reality-based model is to think that the unique spark that makes people successful is dumb luck, and all the people who try and fail are just as key to success as the one who succeeded.

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#9

I don’t share that presumption. I think the current model is already one where short-sighted personal interest overrides an interest in the public good. I can get a whole ton of games for free, so that’s good for me, right?

The problem is that someone is paying, and not everyone paying is okay. Freemium services have problem users the same way gambling has problem users. It also ends up meaning that everything is shaped to appeal to high-spenders. The game you play is going to be made to appeal to one Saudi prince (based on a true story I’m privy to), not to the majority of the users.

But it’s also not the commons that is being pillaged. It’s private money belonging to corporations. Generally when corporations are giving you free stuff, you are paying more than you want to for that free stuff.

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#10

I am actually surprised I hadn’t heard of this yet. Nice little scam while you can get away with it though.

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#11

It’s malware – it accesses ads, generating impressions, unbeknownst to the user, who is distracted and pliant because they’re playing the game. Even if you’re OK with this particular use and whatever data it eats up, there’s no telling what else it might do and every reason to suspect it will do other bad things.

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#12

I’d written “incentivizes Google not to deal with the problem”, edited the sentence, but missed a in my haste.

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#14

So in the new usage, an incentive becomes an incentivizer?

It’s burglarizers all the way down.

@Humbabella
I like your extension of this aphorism, applying it more widely. Although the original quote was probably more to do with the abillity to measure the effect of inputs on outputs - specifically on ad spend, where there ought to be more to it than dumb luck.
But the wider conclusion that much effort is de facto wasted, is something more people may need to realise and get over. Of course some will say no, we have to keep to revering success and its ‘causes’ (antecedents?) or else nobody will bother trying anything.
May your glass be eternally filling and emptying at the same rate.

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#15

Well that’s creepy! I didn’t see that in the article.

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#16

It’s something I come across in Nietzsche (and in lesser descendants, like Randianism). They note that 90% of everything is garbage, and think they can continue to get the good stuff without having the garbage produced. I think the problem with revering success comes exactly in the extension back to the ‘causes’. Looking to successful people to figure out what makes a person successful sounds like a recipe for reinforcing biases, not learning about reality. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Nietzsche was a misogynist or that contemporary Randians find themselves in the political party of racism and plutocracy.

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#17

That was my 1st question: What is ad fraud?

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#18

As an incentive for apps to display ads in prominent places, they get a small sum each time a user clics the ad. Basically, each time you click an ad, you first open a link on a google server which counts the click and then redirects the browser to the firm paying for the ad.
Ad fraud is when the app itself clics the ad in the background. The user does not click or see anything, but the click is sent to the server to be registered.

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#19

In my opinion, the problem is real but lies somewhere else. It is perfectly fine to use free software as long it is written by someone not seeking profit (enthusiasts, for example). That is the idea behind free software as in “freedom” (e.g. Linux, etc…). But it is not fine to expect free software from commercial developers (as is the case for most games) and I usually avoid that.

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#20

I would love to see a version of “Atlas Shrugged” in which all the Alphas go on their brain-strike, retreating to their mountain fastness to do great work for their Randian equals, only the World simply carries on without them. There is a nine-day’s-wonder in the media, and then it is just business as usual. The Great Man myth is so pernicious.

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#21

I think there are different models of how to distribute “free” things and seek money. I played a lot of shareware games as a kid and I thought that model was fantastic. I’ve played some free games as an adult where I feel they are very close to using that model - you can play for free, but if you pay some reasonable, fixed amount you open up parts of the game or substantially improve the play experience. I’ve frequently been happy to mindfully pay an amount I thought was reasonable when I thought the game was enjoyable.

But there are a lot of games that are on a pure whale-hunting business model. There’s little point in paying anything unless you plan to spend $100+ a month (and there are opportunities to spend way more).

For those games I feel totally comfortable in my antagonistic relationship with the developer.

Not that I’ve played “free” games at great length. The only one I can think of I’ve really put a lot of time into is Path of Exile, and that one I’ve paid in substantially (in part because the idea that they’d get less of my money than Blizzard got for Diablo III seems deeply unjust).

Or, I think more realistically, if we all ended up doing better without them. Replace some egotist CEOs with a person who just wants a steady paycheck in return for a job well done.

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