Expansions Made to Google’s Malicious Software Policy

Google's Malicious Software Policy is Changing

Google has announced updates to their policy on malicious or unwanted software. The changes, which will be finalized May 9, 2023, are likely intended to boost user confidence following the disastrous launch of Google’s AI chat function, Bard.

But that’s not all – shaken by recent volatility in cryptocurrency value and consumer outrage over irresponsible advertising practices, Google is planning new restrictions in financial advertising on the search engine. 

Google’s Malicious Software Policy

The original policy has been shrunk to cover only the intentional distribution of malware, which Google defines as software that harms or gains unauthorized access to a computer, device, or network. 

The policy applies to websites, advertisements, and software to which your platform links (or is a host).  

Any violation of the malicious software policy is considered “egregious,” which Google defines as “so serious that it is unlawful or poses significant harm to our users or our digital advertising ecosystem.” Egregious violations result in immediate and indefinite account suspension, which halts advertising from your Google Ads account. 

Compromised Sites Policy

It’s important to note that the Malicious software policy designates intentionally distributed malware. A great deal of malware spreads via hacked website pages, and Google’s new Compromised sites policy covers these. 

If your site or ads were manipulated or hacked by a third party to distribute malware or harm users without your knowledge, the Compromised sites policy comes into play: Google will issue a warning to remove the offending link or property with at least 7 days’ notice. 

During this period, your Google Ads account will remain functional – it’s only if the issue remains that a suspension will occur. 

Unwanted Software Policy

The most complex issue raised by Google’s policy changes is that of unwanted software – when does a positive user experience degrade into something “potentially harmful”? 

Google defines unwanted software as displaying one or more of the following: 

  • “It is deceptive, promising a value proposition that it does not meet. 
  • It tries to trick users into installing it or it piggybacks on the installation of another program.  
  • It doesn’t tell the user about all of its principal and significant functions.  
  • It affects the user’s system in unexpected ways.  
  • It is difficult to remove.  
  • It collects or transmits private information without the user’s knowledge.
  • It is bundled with other software and its presence is not disclosed.” 

They also detail criteria for installation and clear disclosure, behavior, and removal of software. It’s worth checking out their page if you have any qualms about a piece of software your business is offering. 

New Google Policies No Cause for Alarm 

If you’re running a legitimate business and marketing user-friendly software, you might not have to do anything at all to conform to Google’s new policies. These policies will overwhelmingly affect low-quality, poorly maintained websites that (intentionally or not) are distributing malware.  

However, whatever your situation may be, you should check external links and perform a site crawl to confirm you have no compromised pages and are linking to nothing that could be deemed malicious.

Google’s Malicious Software policy alterations made one other thing clear in the online advertising world:

Crypto Has Lost Its Glow 

The 2022 Super Bowl featured multiple ads for crypto exchanges – including one featuring actor Matt Damon – months after bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency in circulation, had begun its rapid decline in value. 

Since then, the plunge has continued, and the crypto bubble has burst, leaving some advertisers worried they’ve made themselves vulnerable to criticism – or even litigation.  

Google’s new policy permits advertisers offering hardware crypto wallets, provided they do not offer “additional services such as purchasing, selling, exchanging, or trading assets.” This is a global policy that could massively affect advertising for companies like Robinhood or Coinbase. 

The result could be a reduction of spending on Google’s flailing algorithm, or a turn away from crypto from legitimate financial services that embraced it. In either case, the cryptocurrency market’s volatility is unlikely to go away anytime soon. 

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