Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tell your visitors they are being tracked with web beacons & cookies as AdSense terms updated

It's that time again, the update of the AdSense terms & conditions as well as the program policies. Now, everyone has to agree to the new terms and conditions, and then don't forget that when you approved the terms and conditions, you automatically accepted the policies as well. Sorry for the slight delay, I was enroute to SMX, and was about 10 minutes from leaving for the airport when AdSense first blogged that today was the new Terms drop day. Thank you to all those publishers who forwarded copies of the terms & conditions to me, it was much appreciated and gave me something to do on the flight!

First, let's start with the policies.

Product-Specific Policies

The only change here was that they added AdSense for Video, linking to a new policies page here. The HTML coding was done incorrectly so you may not be able to view this change, and will see the updated date of February 2008 linked to the page instead.

Now, onto the changes to the AdSense Terms & Conditions, which are much more tedious!

One notable change is the fact that Google has changed all the terminology in the Terms and Conditions from "sites" to "properties" when referring to where publishers are placing their advertisements. This change was likely made to accommodate those publishers who are placing ads within their own videos. So I won't detail every instance the only change was made to make it from Site(s) to Property(ies) since they are numerous and they were all changed.

While the majority of changes were due to the addition of AdSense for Video, there were some other changes, as detailed below.

1. Program Participation

The first change is a very minor one, the change is made on italics.

Participation in the Program is subject to Google's prior approval and Your continued compliance with the Program Policies...

And the next part is a pretty big change and addition, I have bolded a very significant change:

agree that Google may serve (a) third party and/or Google provided advertisements and/or other content (such third party provided advertisements, Google provided advertisements and other content, collectively, "Ads"), provided, however, that if Google serves non-compensated content, You will have the ability to opt out of receiving such content as part of the Program, (b) related Google queries and/or Ad search box(es) (collectively, “Links†), (c) Google Web and/or Site search results (collectively, "Search Results"), and/or (d) Google referral Ads (“Referral Buttons†), each in connection with the Web site(s), media player(s), video content and/or mobile content that You designate, or such other properties expressly authorized in writing by Google (including by electronic mail) (such other properties, “Other Properties†), and the Atom, RSS, or other feeds distributed through such Web site(s) , media player(s), video content, mobile content and/or Other Properties (each such Web site, media player, video content, mobile content, Other Property or feed, a "Property"). For the avoidance of doubt, any reference in this Agreement or the Program Policies to an individual “Web page†, “Web site†, “Web site page†or the like that is part of the Property will also mean feeds and media players distributed through such Web site. Multiple accounts held by the same individual or entity are subject to immediate termination unless expressly authorized in writing by Google (including by electronic mail). In some circumstances expressly authorized in writing by Google (including by electronic mail), You may enroll in the Program and create an account for the sole purpose of receiving payment from Google, and not, for purposes of clarification, for the purpose of displaying Ads, Links, Search Results and/or Referral Buttons on a Property. If, however, You subsequently use your Account to participate in the Program (i.e. for the purpose of displaying Ads, Links, Search Results and/or Referral Buttons on a Property), then such use of the Program will be governed by the terms of this Agreement. You must have and abide by an appropriate privacy policy that clearly discloses that third parties may be placing and reading cookies on your users’ browser, or using web beacons to collect information, in the course of ads being served on your website. Your privacy policy should also include information about user options for cookie management.

WOW. So now all publishers must have a privacy policy simply for showing AdSense ads. I would be willing to bet about 99.99% of all AdSense publishers are currently in violation of this one. And it is a very "big brother is watching" all encompassing one, to boot. I will create an AdSense-friendly privacy policy for publishers to use, if they'd like, since now I will have to make one for my own websites. But WOW.

This section also means that any feeds a publisher distributes on the site, as well as any media etc will be covered under the "Property(ies)" designation in the new terms.

2. Implementation and Operation of Ads, Search Results, and Referrals.

Interestingly, they didn't change the heading of this section to include AdSense for Video, despite it being added as a subsection.

AdSense for Search

Curiously, they removed "Each Web page(s) that contains a Search Box must also contain other content related to Your Site." So this means that publishers can create pages that have nothing other than a search box, which also means many websites currently in violation of this policy are now perfectly legal in the eyes of AdSense.

Also, I have bolded an addition here:

You will send any and all queries (without editing, filtering, truncating, appending terms to or otherwise modifying such queries individually or in the aggregate) to Google

I would guess that some non-compliant publishers were truncating longtail searches to higher paying short tail searches (ie. changing "loans for single moms texas" to "loans"). Likewise, some publishers might have been inserting higher paying keywords into searches done by their users (ie. changing "Texas" to "Texas loans").

They also made a slight wording change from "(without editing, modifying, or filtering such queries individually or in the aggregate)" to "without editing, filtering, truncating, appending terms to or otherwise modifying such queries individually or in the aggregate".

They have also stressed the fact that the Google search results pages hosted by Google can change in appearance at any time, by adding the following bolded part.

and the format, look and feel of those Web pages hosted by Google may be modified by Google from time to time.

AdSense for Content

The following has been removed:

In addition, You agree that while You may display more than one (1) Ad Unit on each Site Web page, You shall not display any Ad Unit on a page that contains Ads associated with another Google AdSense customer (e.g., Your Web hosting company), unless authorized to do so by Google.

Essentially, this means that now if you are a webhost monetizing with AdSense, that your hosting customers will now be able to also place their own AdSense on those pages, without having to seek permission to do so (although granted, most didn't get permission for it anyway).


The following has been removed:

Each Web page(s) that contains a Referral Button must also contain other content related to Your Site.

Well, I can't say this is a good move from a user experience point of view. But it is from a publisher point of view... because now you can publish pages with absolutely no content but a referral ad unit button on the page. I can already see pay per click advertisers jumping on this one to test conversions on it, now that you don't have to have anything else on the page to distract a visitor with.

Another minor change in bold:

End users who click on a Referral Button will be directed to a Web page that may be hosted by Google

The previous version said "will".

AdSense for Video

This entire section was added:

AdSense for Video. If you have elected to use AdSense for Video, Your participation is subject to your continued compliance with the AdSense for Video Program policies located at http://adsense.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=73987 or the URL as Google may provide from time to time. All Ads (including Ads served in response to end user clicks on and queries entered into Links, if any) shall be (1) grouped by Google and displayed with Links (where applicable) to end users of the Property(ies) as Ad Unit(s) or (2) pre-, post- or interstitial roll in connection with third party video content, in each case in standard formats as offered generally by Google from time to time, as may be further described in the applicable policies. You acknowledge and agree that the Ads will be displayed on the Property in a video format approved by Google, and that such Ads: (i) shall only be displayed in connection with the Property(ies) and non-advertisement video content (collectively “Video Media†), all of which is subject to review and approval by Google in its discretion at any time; and (ii) shall only be requested in connection with end user initiated Video Media. In addition, You agree that You may only display one (1) Ad Unit within Your media player at any single time, unless otherwise approved by Google in writing.

General; Serviced Pages; Filtering; Beta Features.

This section was renamed from just "General".

The following was removed:

If You have elected to receive content or Site-based Ads, You further agree not to display on any Serviced Page any non-Google content-targeted advertisement(s). If You have elected to receive Search Results on any Site(s), You agree that Google will be the exclusive provider of Internet search services on such Site(s).

So you are welcone to use another search service on your sites alongside AdSense for Search. Again, a curious decision, and wondered if they removed it as they pretty much already dominate the smaller publishers with their search service.

They also changed the wording on the beta feature offerings, which was previously unnamed as beta features. They removed:

Google may also include in certain services features which are unsupported under Google's then current technical documentation. Such features are provided "as is" and Your use of them shall be undertaken solely at Your own risk.

And replaced it with:

"Some Program features are identified as “Beta†or otherwise unsupported (“Beta Features†). To the fullest extent permitted by law, Beta Features are provided "as is" and at Your option and risk. You shall not disclose to any third party any information from Beta Features, existence of non-public Beta Features or access to Beta Features.

Now, this is a tricky one. This means that if you are given a beta feature to test out, you cannot tell anyone you are testing it, or that it even exists. Makes people like me not want to be in the betas so we can blog about it! Hopefully people will still blab ;) But many of the beta features are easily spottable to the trained eye.

3. Communications Solely with Google

No changes were made to this section.

4. Parties' Responsibilities

No changes were made to this section.

5. Prohibited Uses

The following bolded part was added.

You shall not, and shall not authorize or encourage any third party to: (i) directly or indirectly generate queries, Referral Events, or impressions of or clicks on any Ad, Link, Search Result, or Referral Button (including without limitation by clicking on “play†for any video Ad) through any automated, deceptive, fraudulent or other invalid means, including but not limited to through repeated manual clicks, the use of robots or other automated query tools and/or computer generated search requests, and/or the unauthorized use of other search engine optimization services and/or software;

Not really much of a surprise there, don't encourage video clicks, just like you don't encourage clicks on the regular AdSense ads.

And in the second point of that section, additions are bolded:

edit, modify, filter, truncate or change the order of the information contained in any Ad, Link, Ad Unit, Search Result, or Referral Button, or remove, obscure or minimize any Ad, Link, Ad Unit, Search Result, or Referral Button in any way without authorization from Google;

Makes you wonder what they are allowing some publishers to test!

And another change under the things publishers cannot do, this time what is in bold was removed from the new terms.

display any Ad(s), Link(s), or Referral Button(s) on any error page, on any registration or "thank you" page (e.g., a page that thanks a user after he/she has registered with the applicable Web site), on any chat page, in any email, or on any Web page or any Web site that contains any pornographic, hate-related, violent, or illegal content;

Is that the sound of publishers adding AdSense to chat pages, emails, 404 pages, registration pages and thank you pages? I think so!

Under point iv, they removed:

(e.g., while Search Results may be indirectly accessed from Your Site(s), they may only be displayed on the appropriate Google-hosted Web page);

This merely brings it in-line with the fact you can now host your own results pages, although the results are still served by Google.

They have also added:

(ix) disseminate malware; (x) create a new account to use the Program after Google has terminated this Agreement with You as a result of your breach of this Agreement; or

Not really surprising, malware=bad and the second is for those publishers who try to sneakily get a new AdSense account after being suspended / terminated.

6. Termination; Cancellation

No changes were made.

7. Confidentiality

No changes were made.

8. No Guarantee

The following was added:

In addition, for the avoidance of doubt, Google does not guarantee the Program will be operable at all times or during any down time (i) caused by outages to any public Internet backbones, networks or servers, (ii) caused by any failures of Your equipment, systems or local access services, (iii) for previously scheduled maintenance or (iv) relating to events beyond Google’s (or its wholly owned subsidiaries’) control such as strikes, riots, insurrection, fires, floods, explosions, war, governmental action, labor conditions, earthquakes, natural disasters, or interruptions in Internet services to an area where Google (or its wholly owned subsidiaries) or Your servers are located or co-located.

Wow, I think they covered just about everything. I find it interesting they added issues on the publisher's end... wonder if a publisher got cranky with Google when it was their own hosting that was down, and not anything related to Google having problems serving ads.

9. No Warranty

The following in bold was added:


10. Limitations of Liability; Force Majeure.

No changes were made.

11. Payment

The part that said Google will not pay for "Google advertisements for its own products and/or services (excluding payments based on completed Referral Events);" was removed.

The following was added:

From time to time Google may be holding funds, payments and other amounts due to You in connection with the AdSense Program. You acknowledge and agree that Google may, without further notice to You, contribute to a charitable organization selected by Google all funds, payments and other amounts related to the AdSense Program that are held by Google and that are due to you (if any), but which Google is unable to pay or deliver to You because Your account is Inactive (as defined below). “Inactive†means that, based on Google’s records: (a) for a period of two (2) years or more You have not logged into your account or accepted funds, payments or other amounts that Google has attempted to pay or deliver to You, and (b) Google has been unable to reach You, or has not received adequate payment instructions from You, after contacting You at the address shown in Google’s records.

I am guessing they have had issues with publisher deaths when they do not receive details on paying out to the estate, etc.

12. Publicity

No changes were made to this section.

13. Representations and Warranties

The change to this is for the video ads.

In addition, to the extent that Your Site is a media player (1) You represent and warrant that You have a valid license to use and distribute such media player (including all content therein, including without limitation any Ads or Ad Units) for the purposes of this Agreement and the Program; and (2) You shall ensure that any media player(s) that constitute the Site shall comply with the terms and conditions set forth herein. You further represent and warrant that each Property and any material displayed therein: (i) comply with all applicable laws, statutes, ordinances, and regulations; (ii) do not breach and have not breached any duty toward or rights of any person or entity including, without limitation, rights of intellectual property, publicity or privacy, or rights or duties under consumer protection, product liability, tort, or contract theories; and (iii) are not pornographic, hate-related or otherwise violent in content.

Most of this is pretty obvious, but you know at least one publisher will try and upload a celebrity porn tape and put AdSense on it!

14. Your Obligation to Indemnify.

No changes made to this section.

15. Google Rights

Addition in bold:

You acknowledge that Google owns all right, title and interest, including without limitation all Intellectual Property Rights (as defined below), in and to the Program (including Google's ad serving technology, search technology, referral technology, and Brand Features, including implied licenses, and excluding items licensed by Google from third parties

And more minor changes:

You will not remove, obscure, or alter Google's copyright notice, Brand Features, or other proprietary rights notices affixed to or contained within any Google services, software, or documentation (including without limitation the display of Google’s Brand Features with Ads, Links, Search Boxes, Search Results, and/or Referral Buttons, as applicable).

16. Information Rights

17. Miscellaneous

No changes were made.

Whew! That's all folks! Sorry for the delay, I was traveling to SMX and was working on this on the airplane and finishing it up in the hotel. Sorry for any air turbulence typos! What is your take on the changes?

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