Don Marti

Tue 22 Jul 2014 05:20:02 AM PDT

How to beat adtech fraud: REGISTER ALL HUMANS

Ted McConnell, on AdExchanger: Advertising Fraud: It’s Time For Asymmetrical Warfare.

When you have an enemy that’s shape-shifting, agile, belligerent, invisible, greedy, fast and brilliant, you have a problem. Welcome to what military strategy people call asymmetrical warfare. It looks like terrorism. They lie about their identity. They only have to be right once. There are no lines in the sand. You can’t tell them from the good guys. They adapt.

I's actually worse than that. The best fraud rings only have to be better than the worst ad networks. The fraud perpetrators get to pick which network to attack, while the network doesn't get to pick which fraud perpetrators it deals with. The feedback for fraud is relatively quick. It's cheap and easy to try it on a small scale by buying or generating a little bit of bad traffic and seeing what happens. It's easy to decouple the parts of fraud that you're good at from the parts that you need help on, because that's how adtech is networked to begin with. Finally, the expected consequences of failure are small.

Where this piece gets problematic is in suggested solutions for dealing with the adtech fraud problem while keeping the adtech system intact. (Adtech, privacy, and fraud control, you can only have two.) Of course, this means abandoning privacy.

For example, "Make a publicly provided 'white list' of humans, accessible as a service to all transactions," and "tighten up Internet access...make sure an antivirus is in place." So in order to beat adtech fraud, McConnell wants to have (1) a white list of all humans and (2) control over all client systems (to verify that antivirus). Even the DRM maximalists didn't get that much.

And what happens while this perfect system of total control is being rolled out? Older clients, and humans who aren't on the white list of humans, will still be out there, so most of the fraud gets to continue. And by the time the system of control is in place, someone will subvert it for legit reasons.

If total Internet lockdown isn't going to happen, how do you beat fraud? A better answer is to turn the privacy up, not down: Adtech fraud: you can't cheat an honest man.

Bonus links:

Jon Udell: It’s time to engineer some filter failure

Atul: Does Privacy Matter?

Tim Peterson: Angry Birds Maker Rovio Points Finger at Ad Networks Over NSA Data Leak

Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau: IAB Head: 'The Digital Advertising Industry Must Stop Having Unprotected Sex' (via The Drift from Upstream)

David Rogers: Bad adbots and the vanishing CMO

Robin Hanson: Why Do Firms Buy Ads?

Ted Dhanik: We're All Responsible for Click Fraud and Here's How to Stop It

Doug Weaver: Dead internet ideas: The "right" to target