It's no wonder that use of ad blockers is taking off, given that online ads are often annoying at best and illegal and dangerous at worst. Google today put some big numbers behind the bad-ad epidemic by reporting that, in the past year, it blocked more than 780 million of the very worst from getting through its ad network. Among the offenders: malware, links to data-stealing phishing sites, and those ads on mobile web browsers and apps that are almost impossible to not click on.
Google says it has more than 1,000 employees playing whack-a-mole with crummy and dangerous ads. Some of the most commonly blocked ads include:
- 10,000 advertised sites selling counterfeit goods (like fake designer fashion)
- 12.5 million ads for pharmaceuticals that weren't approved by the FDA or that made bogus claims about their effectiveness
- 30,000 sites selling fake weight loss products, like ineffectual supplements
- Ads linking to 7,000 phishing sites, designed to trick users into giving up confidential information
- 17 million ads that try to trick people into clicking on them by masquerading as system-warning pop ups, including notices to update your software
Ads on mobile devices—in mobile browsers or in apps—can be seriously irritating because they cover over what is already a scarce screen surface. That also makes them very easy to accidentally click. Google banned ads from more than 16,000 apps where this was a problem.
Google has developed a tech fix to this mobile ad problem, it says: algorithms that can tell, based on the way someone is interacting on the screen, if they clicked on an ad by accident. In that case, users will not be sent off to the web page of the advertiser.
Even the ads that Google considers legit can be unwelcome, it recognizes. For that, Google reminds people that they have some control over their ad experience, such as the ability to click "Mute" on an ad so that it and similar ones don't show up.