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July 21, 2015, Article

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MediaPost: TAG Taps Google To Power Collaborative Bot Blacklisting Effort

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) has taken the latest step in its effort to clean up the programmatic marketplace by partnering with Google and a handful of ad tech companies to roll out a new program meant to block fraudulent data-center traffic by blacklisting flagged IP addresses.

TAG will use Google’s database of data center IP addresses as the foundation for the blacklist. Other companies joining the project include Facebook, Yahoo, Rubicon Project, TubeMogul, The Trade Desk, MediaMath, Dstillery and Quantcast.

“Google is providing the initial, very robust dataset for the blacklist,” a TAG representative explained to Real-Time Daily. “The other companies taking part, including major players like Facebook and Yahoo, will be supplementing and updating the blacklist with their own internal data and blacklists, and TAG will be coordinating all of those efforts and sharing the list with the industry.”

In essence, TAG is setting out to compile a mega-blacklist that advertisers can collaboratively add to and use. If an IP address is associated with a non-human ad request, it’s added to the database and the blacklist.

“The industry is galvanizing its efforts,” asserted Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG, in a prepared statement.

Data centers are “large networks of servers used to run software at scale,” explains TAG. The centers are not bad in and of themselves — TAG notes that they are commonly used to help consumers find the best hotel prices or crawl the Web for search results, for example — but that software can be purpose-built by savvy fraudsters to masquerade as humans for the sole purpose of taking advantage of programmatic ad technologies.

“Data-center traffic is one of many types of non-human or illegitimate ad traffic,” wrote Vegard Johnsen, product manager of Google ad traffic quality, in a blog post. This type of bot traffic “masquerade[s] as human visitors by using User-Agent strings that are indistinguishable from those of typical Web browsers,” Johnsen wrote, adding that these bots can inflate metrics such as click-through rates.

“By pooling our collective efforts and working with industry bodies, we can create strong defenses against those looking to take advantage of our ecosystem,” wrote Johnsen.

It’s no surprise to see Google sitting in the middle of this effort, as the company last year beefed up its DoubleClick technology to protect advertisers from buying hidden ads. Advertising Age also recently reported that Google has been secretly fighting ad fraud by building out a team of over 100 dedicated to the cause.

This collaborative blacklisting effort is a pilot program, and TAG intends to “soon release a set of principles for public comment.” The group plans to have its full anti-fraud tool centered around the blacklist by the end of this year.

Read the full article on MediaPost

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