Towards transparency and privacy in the online advertising business

Auditing the performance of antifraud system of video portals

Privacy is just one of the angles in which the online advertising ecosystem needs to make a serious step ahead. Other of the most important problems that online advertising suffer from is fraud. Fraud is the practice of obtaining revenue generating fake views or clicks in any type of ads (display, video, search, etc). In particular, it is estimated that fraud costs (only) to the U.S. Ad Tech industry more than $8B annually.

While substantial effort has been devoted to understand fraudulent activity in traditional online advertising (search and display), more recent forms such as video ads have received little attention. The understanding and identification of fraudulent activity (i.e., fake views on videos) in video ads for advertisers, is complicated as they rely exclusively on the detection mechanisms deployed by video hosting portals. In this context, the development of independent tools able to monitor and audit the fidelity of these systems are missing today and needed by both industry and regulators.

One of the first studies conducted in the area of fraud in video advertisers was conducted by researchers from UC3M, IMDEA Networks, NEC (involved in TYPES project) and POLITO presented. This work contributes a first set of tools to serve the monitoring and auditing the fraud detection systems of popular video portals. Using these tools, the research team evaluate the performance of the audit systems of five major online video portals including YouTube, Dailymotion and Vimeo. The obtained results reveal that YouTube’s detection system significantly outperforms all the others. Despite this, a systematic evaluation indicates that it may still be susceptible to simple attacks. Furthermore, the study finds out that YouTube penalizes its videos’ public and monetized view counters differently, the former being more aggressive. In practice, this means that views identified as fake and discounted from the public view counter are still monetized. Authors speculate that even though YouTube’s policy puts in lots of effort to compensate users after an attack is discovered, this practice places the burden of the risk on the advertisers, who pay to get their ads displayed.

* More details about this study can be found at:

Understanding the detection of view fraud in Video Content Portals

Marciel, R. Cuevas, A. Banchs, R. González, S. Traverso, M. Ahmed, A. Azcorra

25th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW). 2016.

About the author(s)
Rubén Cuevas Rumín | IMDEA

Rubén Cuevas Rumín | IMDEA

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