Chrome 71 Revamps Protections From Abusive Ad Practices

Google is now taking a more robust approach to the problem of abusive advertising, following today's announcement that Chrome 71 will filter out all ads from websites where they are frequently found. In particular, the change targets ads that steal personal data, begin unwanted and unexpected downloads, or that redirect a user unwittingly to external sites via pop-up windows. Sites that persistently contain those types of advertisements, which gain clicks through deception such as by showing fake 'close' or 'play' buttons or misleading warnings, will be affected by the change. Website admins and owners will need to check their websites using the ' Abusive Experiences Report' found in the Google Search Console and will have a total of 30 days to fix or remove ads that are flagged. After that, Chrome 71 will take over and filter out all ads from user view. For users, the new feature will be optional but enabled by default under a new setting in the browser's settings.

Background: The new update builds on changes implemented last year that automatically blocked new window requests and pop-up windows from websites that engaged in practices that are considered abusive. Specifically, those centered around the practice of redirecting users without permission when page elements were interacted with. It also added UI to notify users about the blocked attempt and more information about the automated action. The tool was efficient but didn't do a lot to curb advertising practices falling under Google's eight categorizations for abuse in that context. For clarity, abusive experiences include those that contain fake messages, unexpected click areas, misleading site behavior, phishing, automatic redirects, and links that lead to unintentional download or installation of malware or unwanted software. Also falling under the search giant's definitions are those that contain on-screen visual cues such as mouse pointers that move or click in an attempt to encourage interaction and ads that contain misleading or missing branding.

Meanwhile, there are other changes related to practices that might be deemed abusive more subjectively from a user perspective that will be arriving with Chrome 71 as well. Among other alterations meant to make the browsing experience smoother and faster, the company is finally doing away with websites' ability to automatically play video or audio as soon as a site or page is opened. Speech synthesis won't be able to be activated by default anymore either, following the update, without express permission from the user. Finally, the capabilities on offer to developers with regard to fullscreen web apps and experiences that don't show standard navigation controls are being expanded. However, that's being done in conjunction with other adjustments that will ensure that Chrome still has control. Combined with the most recent announcement about Chrome's handling of abusive ads, that should help prevent new abuses from arising on those types of build-outs while still offering unique and immersive user interaction.

Impact: These changes are going to be hitting all non-developer channels of Chrome in December, with the current expectation being that they'll begin rolling out to desktop platforms on December 4. Other platforms generally follow behind that by a week or two. So Chrome OS users can currently expect to see the changes arriving after December 11. From a user perspective, the update should provide a better experience in terms of fewer interruptions and less opportunity to accidentally become a victim of malicious entities who use the tactics outlined above. However, a good number of websites are also heavily reliant on advertising as a source of revenue. So, although Google insists that only a very small number of websites will be affected by the incoming changes, site owners may want to consider getting a head start through Google Search Console before the rollout begins.

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