One Russian and six Estonians have been arrested (or have a warrant for their arrest) and charged with wire fraud and conspiracy in a 27-count indictment for allegedly hacking millions of computer systems in more than 100 countries and participating in a "massive" scheme to reroute Web surfers to rogue servers. By doing so, the seven individuals accumulated millions of dollars in fraudulent online ad revenue, the DoJ said.
Five years after Google settled a class-action lawsuit brought against it for conniving at click fraud, the online ad heavyweight has been slapped with a similar lawsuit, this time by a Seattle locksmith that used Google's AdWords service for online advertising.
123 Lock was awakened to the possibility of it being a victim of click-fraud when there was a sudden spike in daily clicks, but the “clicks never converted into phone calls.” It says that earlier 80% of the clicks used to lead to phone inquiries.
123 Lock owner Guy Aloni says that although he tried to draw Google's attention to the issue - even suggesting that the shady clicks might be the handiwork of a competitor, he could not elicit a satisfactory response.
Google is one of the brightest stars in the tech firmament. But perhaps it would have been nicer for Google had its glow been a touch dimmer. Currently, it is too conspicuous to evade the gaze of authorities and regulators world over – the price of being too big. It once again finds itself caught in the crosshairs of the French government, which isn't too fond of the search engine giant.
The new levy being dubbed the “Google Tax” might also affect other players in the online advertising game, according to Patrick Zelnik, the lead author of the government-funded report behind the entire idea. The French government stands to earn $70 million this year, if it chooses to impose the tax. Zelnick is hoping that his committee's suggestions will be able to convince other European nation's as well.
“There is an opportunity here to promote innovative solutions, rather than extending the attitude of opposition between the Internet world and the cultural world, for example through the approach of taxation,” said Olivier Esper, Google France's general director.
The search giant may feel able to snatch skittish talent from Yahoo as the Microsoft deal closes. Microsoft has agreed to take on 400 Yahoo employees, but no assurances have been made beyond that. Given the uncertainty, many may be willing to jump ship for Google.
Ask.com has also been going after these employees. At a recent expo, Ask called out Yahoo employees with a banner reading, “My company just gave up on search. Where do I work now?”
Google wants to further strengthen its grip on the online contextual ads business. To this end, it has announced that it is going to acquire a leading Russian contextual advertising company, Begun, for $140 million. Begun’s network encompasses 143,000 Russian websites and 40,000 publishers. Rambler Media, the majority owner of Begun, will buy the remaining stake in the company and in turn sell the entire company to Google. According to Rambler, the online search ads business in Russia is expected to grow by 50% in a year’s time. The acquisition will allow Google to expand its wings over the lucrative, Russian-speaking internet landmass.