The Day Google Decided HttpWatch was ‘Unwanted Software’

calendarApril 20, 2015 in HttpWatch

This blog post isn’t about HTTP performance or HttpWatch itself but you may find it useful if you advertise a software product with Google Adwords. Hopefully, you’ll also find our conversation with Google amusing!

What Happened ?

We received an email like this:

Subject: Your AdWords account: Ads not running due to AdWords Advertising Policies

Hello,

We wanted to alert you that one of your sites violates our advertising policies. Therefore, we won’t be able to run any of your ads that link to that site, and any new ads pointing to that site will also be disapproved.

Here’s what you can do to fix your site and hopefully get your ad running again:

1. Make the necessary changes to your site that currently violates our policies:

      Display URL: httpwatch.com

      Policy violation: Unwanted software

      Details & instructions: 

https://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/50423?hl=en_GB

At first it looked like a phishing email as we go to great lengths to ensure that our software is easily uninstalled and that we never mislead anyone into installing it (e.g. bundling with other applications).
After a few checks it was clear that the email was legitimate and that our ads had been dropped from Google search.

The page linked by the email didn’t suggest anything that applied to our software. The two main points were:

  • Malicious software or “malware” that may harm or gain unauthorised access to a computer, device or network
  • Promotions that violate Google’s Unwanted Software policy

We got in touch with Google Support as there were no obvious violations of their advertising policy.

Our Conversation With Google Support

Here’s a subset of our conversation with Google Support:

Google Support: How can we help you? *

Simtec: We received a ‘Policy violation: Unwanted software’ notification with no detailed explanation of why this occurred. It makes no sense. Our software is only installed when users download and run the setup program. It is uninstalled in the standard way by going to the Windows Control Panel ‘Uninstall Program’ section.

Please can you tell us how we can get our ads re-instated? We’ve been advertising the same software on Adwords for almost 12 years and have spent over a $ 1 million. We are amazed that you would just drop our ads with no pre-warning or at least a decent explanation of the problem

Google Support:  Hi there, thanks for chatting in today! I have your question here, so just give me a moment to take a look

Google Support: Did you make any recent changes to your website or anything?

Simtec: Our website was updated in February to make it mobile friendly

Google Support: Hm, but otherwise nothing else?

Simtec: Nothing else. Don’t you have a detailed reason why this occurred?

Google Support: Just one second, let me find the right form. ? I want to see if I can get more visibility for you

Simtec: Frankly, we’re furious that we have spent so much money with Google to have our ads dropped without any details or warning

Google Support: Unfortunately I don’t have control over that right now but I can look into it for you

….

Google Support: I looked through this, and it seemed that one of the issues was a lack of an End User Agreement (EULA)

Simtec: An EULA is displayed by the setup program before installing starts. Also, the end user license agreements are linked to from here http://www.httpwatch.com/buy/orderingfaq.aspx#licensetypes

Google Support: Hmm, They do want it on the download page itself

Simtec: How come there isn’t one here? https://www.google.co.uk/chrome/browser/desktop/

Google Support: Lol

Simtec: No really?

Google Support: That’s a great question

Simtec: Seems like you guys should put our ads back up, apologise and then sort out your policies

Google Support: Ah okay, So if you click the download (for Chrome) there’s a popup with the TOS

Simtec: There is when the program (HttpWatch Setup) runs. You can’t install it without agreeing the EULA

Google Support: So after you download it? The install requires a EULA?

Simtec: Yes, the setup will not install anything unless you agree to the EULA. It has an ‘I Agree’ button. We’ve been doing that for more than a decade. Why the change now?

Google Support: I’m not sure when the change occurred, but if we do want to resolve this—we’?ll need to get the EULA there

….

Simtec: The changes (EULA Link) are live at http://www.httpwatch.com/download/

Google Support: I have an update from the policy team. They found that the website still does not fully comply:

 Website promoting software is required to have the following items present :

Uninstall guidelines should be clearly visible and/or accessible from the download page.  The uninstall information must be on the download page itself or accessible from the download page by a relevant link such as “Help”, “Support”, “Uninstall”, “Remove Program/Application”.  It should not be located within other pages that are not directly related to uninstall (e.g. privacy policy, terms of service)”

Simtec: We’ve updated the site. If you click the Support link on the download page the first paragraph explains how to uninstall HttpWatch. (i.e. in the standard way through the Control Panel). Is that sufficient to get our ads re-instated?

We checked https://www.google.co.uk/chrome/browser/desktop/ but couldn’t find anything similar there.

Google Support: Great news! We’ve re-reviewed your site and determined that the following site complies with our Advertising Policies

What did we change?

The two changes to make our site comply with Google policies was a link to the EULA next to the download link:

eula_link

On our support page we included instructions on how to uninstall a Windows program:

Uninstall HttpWatch

Conclusion

If this happens to you the fastest way to get the problem resolved seems to be by using a chat window with Google Support.

Fortunately, our ads were back up after a couple of days and at least Google wasn’t trying to stop us using hyperlinks! See Google Bans Hyperlinks .

21 thoughts on “The Day Google Decided HttpWatch was ‘Unwanted Software’

  1. Brian best says:

    I had the same story. I made the changes and showed them to google while on the phone last week. They said OK, problem solved.
    Now this week they said not quite yet. Now the uninstall instructions must be on every landing page on my web site – not just the download page.

    My ads have been basically unchanged for years, my software uses standard uninstall.

    These guys have lost their minds.

  2. Andy Brice says:

    As far as I am aware, none of there downloadable software has uninstall instructions on the download page. Google are total hypocrites.

  3. Jon S says:

    Going through the same circle. Been with AdWords 14+ years. So frustrating.

  4. Colby Boles says:

    I have the same issue here, but with my phone conversation they wouldn’t even tell us what was in “violation” so I have no idea what to fix before requesting a review.

  5. Kyle Wilcox says:

    Thank you so much for posting this info in your blog. Knowing there was a chat like that really helped. That’s pretty ballsy to post your entire chat convo with Google, but I wanted to say that after dealing with this a couple weeks ago, I actually talked to someone on the phone at Google about this and they were definitely eager to get us back on track. The requirements here were the same as you, but unlike your chat with Google, I got them to admit that they are 100% except from ALL their policies, like a parent would be. Just so everyone understands, Google has officially admitted they are hypocrites. Their formal motto is “Don’t be evil”, and while I wouldn’t call this being evil, I would call it being a d***.

  6. Simon Chester says:

    I’ve been dealing with the same problem this week and after 5 telephone conversations I have finally made a little bit of progress in finding out what they objecting about. It began by Google telling me I was distributing malware or software infected with viruses and thought they must have some sort of AV software that had flagged a false positive. Then they said my website was misleading and didn’t describe the product and they sent me their guidelines on “Unwanted software”. After reading that I still couldn’t see a problem. Then I was told that somebody reading my website with insufficient technical knowledge would not know what the product did and I must make the website suitable for “all users”. Then I was told their was no EULA, so I pointed to the link above the download link. Then I was told their was no description of exactly what was installed during installation, so I pointed to the paragraph below the download link. Today I found that they seem to have a problem if the “landing page” for the ad does not contain uninstall details. I don’t want uninstall instructions on the main product description page but have been looking at adding something. If I can put it somewhere else I don’t mind producing a step by step guide with pictures. I’m still having problems with this concept of a description that “anybody” can understand. The product in question is an ActiveX control, but apparently saying that it is an ActiveX control does not describe it adequately because somebody might read the page who does not know what an ActiveX control is. It would be nice to know how much assumed knowledge is expected.

  7. Matt says:

    Maybe a quick report to the EU competition commission that Google are treating it’s adwords customers different from itself? e.g. requiring uninstall links and EULA links on their download pages.

  8. Cockswing McNobbins says:

    That was very unprofessional of the Google support drone to reply with a hearty “Lol” and a sarcastic “That’s a great question” when you pointed out their employer’s hypocritical policies. What a useless wanker.

  9. Jim says:

    “Don’t be evil”

  10. daneyuleb says:

    I didn’t see the “That’s a great question” as sarcastic at all, just support drone “treading water” talk–something to say that’s sympathetic and not dismissive, but doesn’t commit to anything since the support person CAN’T do anything except sympathize and at best, acknowledge the problem and promise to report it. What would you have a low level google support-chat person do? Get the president online? Tell the customer, “yeah–you got us, we’re a bunch of hypocrites?” Easy to say, but a $15.00 an hour chat workers don’t have that kind of leeway and probably wants to keep their jobs.

    And the LOL was actually cool–that was the person going as far as they could in their situational limits to agree: “Oh, Shit–you’re right! We are hypocrites” without going past the boundaries of what he can or is allowed to do. Seems to me the Google person was pretty helpful and sympathetic, and did what he/she could to help to solve the problem his employer’s idiotic policies caused.

  11. SquidgyB says:

    “What a useless wanker.”

    Unprofessional, yes – useless wanker? Nah, just a human who *does* have a sense of humour working for a big multinational company.

  12. curious says:

    I am confused. Where do you find Google support?

  13. stefan says:

    here is an awesome customer support interaction.

    http://www.hellou.co.uk/2014/09/customer-complains-amazon-resulting-conversation-awesome-banter-16823/

    Although more extreme than ‘LOL’, I think it engages the customer and in that way becomes a positive instead of a negative.

  14. Eisar says:

    Wow, what a bunch of hypocrites. I wish people stopped using products and services from those Google creeps.

  15. Stephan B. Feibish says:

    Maybe “deep-pocketed” Google is trying to protect themselves legally. Or Google needs to comply with some government regulation somewhere in the world.

  16. tony says:

    Evil evil company. Not do as I do as I say. They control the search, the browser, in some cases the OS. Investing into the “free” media. Reporting people to authorities for content in “private” email. Evil.

  17. daneyuleb says:

    Though it could certainly be called hypocritical, if the intent of the new policy is to keep out malware makers from putting out ads, Google themselves, who know themselves, and are the one’s providing the ad service, hardly need to confirm to themselves that they aren’t malware (maybe not so much to others, but that’s a different topic). While it would be useful for them to show a good example, I can certainly see where it isn’t required on their part in a purely practical sense here.

  18. Hexamail says:

    Same just happened to us. Here’s a nice snippet of my support conversation!

    Google:
    Was there anything else that I could help you with today, sir?
    me:
    Quick estimate of how much business you have lost small software companies worldwide by suspending their ads for at least 24 hours?
    Google:
    I don’t have an estimate to give to you, sir.

    and nor do they care…

  19. Aaron says:

    Same thing happened to me recently. The most annoying aspect to this is you are given NO WARNING. Surely Google would save a lot of angst by given long standing customers a two week warning before suspending adds.

Got Something to Say?

Your email address will not be published.

Ready to get started? TRY FOR FREE Buy Now