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Can Blockchain Help Fight Digital Ad Fraud?

Ankit Shrivastav
| Posted at 3:01 PM by ISACA News | Category: Risk Management | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Ankit ShrivastavIf you are a netizen, you must have already noticed how certain ads pop up while you are surfing videos on YouTube. Most of the times, these advertisements have close connections to the products and brands you have been searching recently. However, this is not the case always! Finding fake ads of reputed brands like Mercedes-Benz and Waitrose is not uncommon at all. According to reports from The Times of London, several reputed brands have found their advertisements among objectionable and explicit content.

Why should you care about online ad fraud?
If you are an advertiser, this should be a cause of concern for you. According to a recent study, over 20% of the clicks you are getting on your ads can be from bots and tricksters. Censoring the internet and running the entire web without advertisement is impossible. In short, good content and commendable user experience require sponsorship.

Sadly, advertisers are pouring money into digital ads, but they are not receiving the returns they expect. The advent of various smart devices may have expanded the scope of viewing content, but they have done little to ensure that the content is genuine.

According to the Association of National Advertisers, entrepreneurs are wasting over $7 billion on online adverts people do not see. The experts expect the numbers to grow beyond $335.5 billion in the next two years. When companies are ready to spend billions on online advertisements, it is understandable why malicious activities are always around the corner, waiting.

We have seen the likes of Meth-bot that cost the ad industry around $5 million per day. They used bots to mimic human data, created over 250,000 individual domains. These new sites had a resemblance to big fish like ESPN and Vogue.

Digital ad fraud is a serious concern for advertisers and users, too. While the fraudsters use bots to mimic human behavior, trace cursor movements, and hack social media accounts, they fake their geo-location data to avoid detection. As a result, along with regular display ads, the premium online video advertisements are also taking a hit. Digital fraudsters are messing up analytical data, upturning the KPIs and disrupting online campaigns of many of the more reputable brands in the world.

Blockchain as a potential solution to online fraud
Is there any current technology that can prevent pixel stuffing, ad stacking, search ad frauds and affiliate ad frauds? Experts say that it’s possible. They believe that advertisers can prevent similar frauds by turning to blockchain. We are not talking about cryptocurrencies, but the decentralized open-source ledgers.

A fusion of existing ad technology and blockchain can give advertisers the power to keep an eye on each impression and eliminate the fear of fraud. Leading advertising research firms like Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Tech Lab and Data & Marketing Associations already are working on creating a blockchain solution that can help advertisers detect and prevent fraudulent activities. However, the wide variety of online ad frauds make the task of developing a uniform system difficult.

Below are the major use cases of blockchain that can be implemented to prevent online ad frauds:

Ethereum-based ready solutions – Several startups and advertising research companies have been working on blockchain systems that can stop bots and impostors. Ethereum is the best-known blockchain right after Bitcoin. Instead of a central ad server, it offers a decentralized system to advertisers to monitor the activity of their partners. Google, Amazon, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Snapchat have adopted similar history-proof, decentralized ledgers.

Blockchain counterattack – This mechanism adopted by the Ads.txt DApp allows publishers and content owners to list the authorized sellers of their inventory in a .txt file. This file is served from within the root path of their domain’s web server.

Blockchain-based exchange for traders – A combination of the financial matching engine and the latest blockchain technology allows advertisers to enable transparent transactions. It is a NASDAQ Inc. initiative that aims to provide advertisers and publishers a completely secure platform that supports buying, selling and re-trading advertising contracts.

In the digital era, online ads are an important channel for brands to use to reach out to their target audience. Ad fraud not only puts a hole in the pocket of the brands but also harms the end users, who need reliable information to make the right decisions. With the ability to impart transparency to the system and trace an online asset, blockchain can surely help reduce, if not completely stop digital fraud.

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