Google is Walking a Thin Line When it Comes to Crypto

Operating the world’s largest search engine is never easy. Besides handling an incredible amount of traffic daily, there is also a great deal of demand for ad space and other responsibilities. But, Google manages to handle it all pretty well. The company is one of the most valuable on Earth, and its services remain highly sought after.

Google is Walking a Thin Line When it Comes to Crypto

Google’s importance when it comes to ads isn’t to be downplayed in any way. The company is responsible for 92 percent of online search traffic, and everyone covets a place on Google’s front page. The same can be said for crypto companies and services.

A Long Story About Ads

For a long time, the relationship between Google and crypto has been murky at best. The company has gone from embracing crypto to banning crypto ads and even taking crypto-related products from platforms like the Play Store and YouTube. But, even the high rollers at Google understand that crypto is a fledgling industry that can’t be tamed.

However, this month, Google opened the doors and let crypto companies advertise for their products and services. The development essentially means that ds will run without banning or blocking, opening a new world of possibilities for companies in the crypto industry.

The first problem with Google and crypto came in 2018 when the search giant banned all crypto-related ads from its pages. In an update to its Financial Services policies at the time, the Silicon Valley giant confirmed that it would ban all crypto-related advertising, regardless of type.

The news came after several crypto advertisers noticed significantly lower drops in their ads' number of views. Google Adwords denied any change in its Financial Services regulations, adding that Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and other crypto-related ads were welcome. But, the new policy confirmed what many feared as Google took a hard line against crypto ads.

Under the policies at the time, everything related to crypto was a no-go area. This included ICOs, crypto exchanges, wallet applications, and even crypto trading services. The move was expanded to affect all Google crypto products at the time, meaning that crypto-related companies won’t be able to swerve ads on the search giant’s sites as well as third-party sites on its network.

Speaking to CNBC at the time, Scott Spencer, Google’s Director of Sustainable Ads, said:

"We don't have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we've seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it's an area that we want to approach with extreme caution.”

Time for Openness

After three years, the first signs of a reversal came in June. In a statement, Google said that it will let exchanges and wallets advertise, as long as their products themselves are certified by Google.

Of course, it’s not just clear-cut. There are requirements for these ads to run, with Google claiming that applicants will need to be registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), as a money services business, or with a “federal or state-chartered bank entity.”

Interestingly, that requirement means that crypto-related ads aren’t just limited to crypto firms. Prominent digital and even traditional financial institutions that are looking to transition into crypto might also be able to qualify for the ads, so Google is essentially making provisions for future pivots.

That said, there are still a few restrictions put in place to move forward. For instance, the policy update states that most of the decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols and services that are available today will still not be able to make ads on Google services. In part, the statement reads that ads for “initial coin offerings, DeFi trading protocols or otherwise promoting the purchase, sale or trade of cryptocurrencies or related products” will still not be allowed on Google’s services.

Fake Apps Still Prevalent on the Play Store

While Google is reinstating ads, the company is also fighting another war against unwanted apps on its Play Store. A recent report from Trend Micro revealed that Google has cut eight fraudulent apps on the Play Store, all of which were defrauding crypto enthusiasts.

In a detailed analysis, Trend Micro uncovered that these malicious apps were deceiving users into watching paid ads, while also cursing them to pay for bogus cloud mining services. As the report explained, users were being charged a monthly fee of about $15, but they had to pay even more for “enabling increased mining capabilities.”

The fraudulent apps included MineBit Pro, Ethereum — Pool Mining Cloud, Daily Bitcoin Rewards, Bitcoin Miner, BitFunds, Crypto Holic, and Bitcoin - Pool Mining Cloud Wallet. Even more, Trend Micro claimed to have gotten over 120 fake apps on the Play Store.

“These apps, which do not have cryptocurrency mining capabilities and deceive users into watching in-app ads, have affected more than 4,500 users globally from July 2020 to July 2021,” the report said, adding that several of them already had over 100,00 downloads.

Google’s push to embrace crypto is admirable. But, the company also needs to stay careful and watch its security infrastructure.

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