Google will now require all of its advertisers to verify their identities and countries of origin. The new rule expands a policy previously reserved for political ads, and it comes as web platforms attempt to contain scams and false information about the novel coronavirus pandemic. Users will start seeing disclosures with their advertisements this summer, starting with companies in the US and then expanding worldwide.
Before running an ad, buyers will need to provide personal identification and business incorporation documents or other documentation that proves their identity and country of origin. Users can then see the identity by clicking an “about the advertiser” option beside the promotion. “This change will make it easier for people to understand who the advertiser is behind the ads they see from Google and help them make more informed decisions when using our advertising controls. It will also help support the health of the digital advertising ecosystem by detecting bad actors and limiting their attempts to misrepresent themselves,” writes ad integrity head John Canfield in a blog post.
Verification started for political ads in 2018, but it probably won’t roll out for all ads for some time. Canfield says the process will likely take “a few years” to complete. Google is prioritizing advertisers that are selling products and services, promoting informational or educational content, or promoting heavily regulated industries like gambling or health care. People and companies will have a month to complete the verification after Google notifies them; if they don’t, their ads will no longer be served.
Google already requires some companies to prove they have professional certifications. But it hasn’t required advertisers to prove their identities on a large scale until now. As The Wall Street Journal reported last year, the company has been plagued by fake business listings on Google Maps despite efforts to verify businesses with methods like mailing postcards. The company has also previously banned ads against certain categories, like rehab centers, after they’ve proven too attractive for shady companies.