Most things may be just a click away for today’s consumer but a hazard by the name of click fraud is posing problems for the Internet community. According to reliable statistics from ClickForensics, an organisation set up to address the issue of click fraud, while the greatest percentage of click fraud (over 88 percent) originated from within the US and Canada; outside North America, the greatest amount of click fraud originated from within India. The reports also indicate that unwanted click activity originating from India increased 26 percent during Q2 of 2006.
Click fraud is a kind of internet crime that occurs in pay-per-click online advertising when a person, automated script, or computer program imitates a legitimate user of a web browser and clicks on an ad for the purpose of generating a charge per click without having actual interest in the product.
Advertisers who pay search engines like Google and Yahoo on a pay-per-click basis are hugely affected. Online robots are commonly programmed to click on advertisers’ links. A site owner too may not himself click on the ads but get housewives or students, wanting to make some quick money, to do so.
The second instance is that of a rival advertiser committing the fraud with an intention to make the actual advertiser pay for bogus clicks.
Vivek Bhargava, CEO, Communicate2, a company dealing in paid search, insists that the invalid click problem is mainly limited to certain industries such as the finance industry in competitive markets such as the UK and US. “In other verticals, the invalid click problem is negligible,” he adds.
However, Prasanth Mohanachandran, Vice President – Digital, OgilvyOne Worldwide and Neo@Ogilvy, India disagrees saying that it is a sizable menace. Sources inform that Google has already paid $90 million to settle one suit pertaining to click fraud and that several others are pending.
A Google spokesperson informed HT that it has an automated system in place that proactively filters invalid clicks before advertisers are charged. The spokesperson added, “We are looking at duplicate IP addresses, user session information, network information, geo-targeting and browser information that help to detect invalid clicks.”
Zaki Qureshey, founder and managing director, E2 Labs, a Hyderabad-based private information security company said, “A technology called Quality of Service, Bandwidth Management and Bandwidth Optimisiation techniques along with web analysis software can help track detailed information on how long a user has been on a particular IP address and how frequently it was used.”
However, he lamented that ISPs (Internet service providers) are not having dedicated resources to monitor IP addresses and manage security concerns. Surely, the solution for click fraud is not a click away.