Post Note Ban, Google at Work on Safe Web for Digital Converts
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Internet services giant Google has decided to accelerate efforts towards user outreach and empowerment in India, sensing that millions of people, coming online for the first time because of demonetisation, would be vulnerable to digital frauds. The company is also intensifying efforts towards ensuring a safe shopping experience and protecting users from fraudulent ads, said Tom Siegel, vice-president of Google’s Trust and Safety group, in an interview with ET’s CR Sukumar. Towards this, Google took down 1.7 billion suspect advertisements across the globe last year, he said. Excerpts:
How are cyber threats evolving in India? There are a lot of different threats that all kinds of products are exposed to and the main reason is that Google has a lot of users. One aspect that we have been particularly focussed on is the advertising space. We get a lot of shady players trying to use our platform. Trick to click, counterfeit, payday loans and bad pharma are among those. We see a lot of attempts to use the delivery of an online ad as a way to catch the user, either to sell them a fraudulent product or to take important information from them like login information. We also see a lot of malware. Across the industry, we have seen an increase in a trend towards hacking and trying to actually hijack accounts. It is really a cross-border thing. There is nothing that is actually a pattern that you are only seeing evolving in India which is not unique to other countries.
How many bad ads could you take down last year? Google took down 1.7-billion ads that violated its advertising policies, more than double the amount of bad ads it took down in 2015. We are foregoing a lot of revenue in order to protect our users.
With the digital push post demonetisation, more Indians are transacting online. How does Google ensure these platforms are safe? Certainly, fraud is one of the major threats for online commerce in general for merchants, as well as users. If they do not trust that their money or payment transactions are safe they will not come back to doing purchases online. Google is putting a lot of emphasis on creating secure payment infrastructures. We are working very closely with a variety of teams across Google to establish whether this is a transaction we are comfortable having or not. Many signals go into this analysis. We are trying to understand how much we can trust an individual using a payment instrument before actually letting them transact on our platforms. It is a very sophisticated effort.
Given our size, we measure everything in millions or hundreds of millions of data points. All this has to happen in a very large scale and very quickly. We tend to take a very holistic approach to not just fight this badness one by one but to also deploy permanent solutions. A big effort of ours post detection, is actually automation of these efforts and then being able to find automated ways to check and mitigate some of these bad experiences.
What are the most common point of attacks you see in digital transactions in India post demonetisation? I don’t have India-specific data. Given this whole mood around demonetisation, we have done a lot of out
reach with the general public in India on how to make them feel safe and know how to be safe on the internet. We have worked with a team called the Consumer Advocacy Group where we do digital curriculum of what are the ways for you to be safe on the internet. This could be either be a two-factor authentication for your account, or how to be safe from phishing or when you are doing an online buy and sell.
We have been doing outreach with vulnerable communities like children and women for the past 1-1.5 years. We have reached about 1.95 million individuals... We are now also working with governments to create a digital online safety curriculum that is going to be a part of education.
WATCHFUL OF ADS One aspect that we have been particularly focussed on is the advertising space. We get a lot of shady players trying to use our platform TOMSIEGEL VP, Trust and Safety group, Google
How do you look at the role of cyber security in an age of political unrest? Preventing terrorism, terrorist organisations from using our platforms actually has been a big focus area of ours. We have fairly sophisticated efforts underway to identify and remove (disturbing or threatening) content... We make a very clear distinction between freedom of speech and propaganda promotion of terrorism.
How does Google tackle issues of cybercrime? Cybercrime is a very broad term. We are a global company and so we definitely have the ability to see trends that span the globe, and can intervene early on. Very often, what is needed in order to detect and counter larger online threats is having a very good view into what’s happening in data streams for instance, or in terms of the larger share of the transactions for your product.
By monitoring our products closely we can early on identify trends and spot trends of spam attacks that might be happening.