I just got back from the post office, where I sent this letter — and the five attachments to which I’ve linked — to Attorney General Martha Coakley. I have no illusions that my little consumer complaint warrants much in the way of time and resources. Rather, I’m hoping that she or someone in her office will understand the fun and publicity that would come their way by taking on mighty Google. I’ll keep you posted on what happens.
By the way, if you click on Attachments #1 or #2, you’ll see an unfamiliar e-mail address for me. Don’t bother sending me anything there. I used it only for AdSense, and I’m probably going to shut it down.
January 20, 2011
Attorney General Martha Coakley
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108 -1518
Dear Ms. Coakley:
I write to you today about a matter of consumer fraud so small that your first instinct may be not to pursue it. Yet it involves one of our largest and most important companies, Google — which, as you know, has a substantial operation in Massachusetts. And what Google has done to me is just the tip of the iceberg. I have learned that I am one of many people whom Google has essentially defrauded under its AdSense program.
For me it began in September 2010, when I signed up with Google to have advertising automatically posted on my blog, Media Nation (www.dankennedy.net). The earnings were slow but steady. When I checked my account several weeks ago, I saw that I had earned about $120 to $130, and that I would receive a check after January 31.
Then, on January 16, I received an e-mail from Google informing me that “we’ve determined that your AdSense account poses a risk of generating invalid activity.” My account was shut down (which is why I can’t tell you exactly how much money I’m owed), and I was informed that the money I had earned would be refunded to the companies whose ads had appeared on Media Nation (see Attachment #1). I filed an appeal, and on January 20 was informed that it had been rejected (see Attachment #2).
I have no idea why Google did this. As you can see, no information is provided in either of the two e-mails I received from the company. What I have learned is that this high-handed behavior is characteristic of the way Google runs its AdSense program. See, for instance, Aaron Greenspan’s article in the Huffington Post (Attachment #3) and Dylan Winter’s column in Duckworks Magazine (Attachment #4). I have also read about similar complaints on various Internet message boards. I wrote about my own situation for Media Nation earlier this week (see Attachment #5).
I hope you will agree with me that this is outrageous behavior on Google’s part. My strong suspicion is that no human has even looked at my account — that this was all determined by Google’s software sniffing around my site and finding a traffic pattern that seemed to suggest a problem, even though it was perfectly innocuous.
The amount of money may be small, but it is time someone in government stood up to Google executives and told them they cannot confiscate the earnings of people with whom they do business and without even giving them a reason.