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Alphabet’s Profits on the Rise, Google Users Exposed to Scam

3 min read
May 11, 2021
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The pandemic has pushed people into using the internet as their main source of information and, often, entertainment. At the same time, businesses worldwide are more eager to promote their products and services online to reach their audiences. 

This situation is favorable for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, which recently announced a major increase in its quarterly profits. The question is, does it work just as well for people who rely on Google daily?

Alphabet’s revenue of $55.3 billion is up 34% from the same period a year ago. Net income more than doubled, jumping from $6.8 billion to $17.9 billion at the same time. The stock rose more than 4% in after-hours trading.

In a statement, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said, “Over the last year, people have turned to Google Search and many online services to stay informed, connected and entertained. We’ve continued our focus on delivering trusted services to help people around the world.”

It seems that Google should place more focus on making their services “trusted.” While Alphabet enjoys record profits thanks to the boost in online advertising, web users are seeing more and more fraudulent ads during their research. The consumer watchdog Which? surveyed 1,870 search engine users and discovered that one in five were targeted by scam adverts in Google. 

The research found that one in three Google users didn’t know how to report the scam. Even if users managed to complete the confusing process, 34% claimed that the reported advert wasn’t removed.

According to a snippet featured by Google itself, a scam is “a deceptive scheme or trick used to cheat someone out of something.” While Google relies on users to point out questionable ads, it also forces users to notice them in the first place. Recognizing “deceptive” content is a tricky task that often means falling for the scam to begin with. The whole process raises serious ethical questions.  

“Our latest research has exposed significant flaws with the reactive approach taken by tech giants including Google and Facebook in response to the reporting of fraudulent content — leaving victims worryingly exposed to scams,” said Adam French, Consumer Rights Expert at Which?.

A survey run by WordStream shows that 64.6% of users searching with an intent to purchase will click on paid search listings rather than organic content. That’s a huge audience for fraudulent companies that create copycat websites of popular brands to promote their fake offers with Google Ads. Victims of scams will receive a product that looks nothing like what they ordered or never see their package at all. 

“These kinds of scams cause significant financial and emotional damage. And because fake adverts are paid for, the platforms hosting them are potentially profiting from criminal activity,” says Which?.

As Alphabet’s advertising revenue jumped by 32%, profits from Google Ads account for more than half of the total revenue in the quarter. How much of it comes from scams?