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Judge Ordered Google to Divulge Four Search Marketers’ Identities in ‘AdSense for Domains and AdSense for Errors Programs’ Case

A federal judge has ordered Google to reveal potentially confidential information about four AdWords advertisers who also are clients of the Internet marketing firm Wpromote. The ruling, issued earlier this month by U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard Lloyd in the Northern District of California, stems from several lawsuits filed in 2008 complaining about Google’s AdSense for Domains and AdSense for Errors programs, which place ads on sites that’ve little or no editorial content. Users often land on such sites after mistyping a URL.

Google, says that parked-domain ads “perform as well as or better than ads on Search and Display Network sites,” recently filed papers seeking dismissal of the case. The company argues that it didn’t mislead or harm any of the plaintiffs by placing their ads on parked domains or error sites.

Despite a Dec. 22 deadline for disclosure, Google argue against the requirement to divulge the client’s identities, claiming that it’s confidential information: “Such information includes detailed analyses regarding the performance of the ads that RK West and the Wpromote Clients placed through the AdWords program,” Google’s attorneys said in a filing asking for modification of the judge’s order. “Public disclosure of this information could cause competitive harm to RK West and the Wpromote Clients by giving third-parties access to their sensitive business information.”

The plaintiffs in the case had also asked the judge to compel Google to provide detailed, rather than aggregate, data on all of Wpromote’s clients, arguing that Mothner considered that data in reaching his conclusions in the report. Judge Lloyd declined to do so, stating that only aggregate data need be provided. Google had already provided that for all four clients at the time of the order.


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