LONDON – Internet giant Google is profiting from illegal advertisements on its search engine, including for unofficial London 2012 Olympics tickets, cannabis, fake ID cards and fake U.K. passports, an investigation by the BBC has found.
Google removed the ads after the BBC brought them to its attention, but the U.S. multinational told journalists that it keeps all the money it makes from companies advertising illegal services before such ads are taken down.
Google has had a bumpy start to 2012. Last Tuesday a French court fined the company $65,000 after its autocomplete function kept prompting the word ‘crook’ when the name of a certain French insurance company was typed into the search bar.
BBC 5 Live, which specializes in live news and phone-ins, was alerted to the illegal ads issue by a caller (“Liz”) complaining about an ad for a scam site (LiveOlympicTickets) that appeared at the top of the Google search results page when she searched for 2012 Olympics tickets.
Google’s flagship automated advertising system, Google AdWords, generates the initial selection of ads that appear on top of its search results. LiveOlympicTickets was its top sponsored link for 2012 Olympic tickets, according to the BBC.
Despite the caller losing more than $1000 in the transaction, Google has kept the money from the illegal ads, and told Liz’s family that “we are not responsible for, nor are we able to monitor the actions of each company.”
According to the BBC, the Metropolitan Police had requested that Google remove LiveOlympicTickets’ ads more than a week before they were finally taken down following the BBC investigation.