Bad Ads: Problematic Content in Online Advertising

A research project of the UW Allen School Security and Privacy Lab
New! Explore the data from our CHI '21 paper here: What Makes a "Bad" Ad? Data on What Users Think About Online Ads

Online ads are an integral part of the modern web. Though most ads are used to promote legitimate products and services, some ads engage in misleading, deceptive, and in some cases illegal practices — impacting users financially, wasting their time and attention, and spreading scams, misinformation, and malware. Our research and other reports suggest that problematic online advertising remains prevalent on the web, posing a threat to the security and safety for internet users.

The University of Washington Security and Privacy Lab has been systematically investigating problematic ads on the web. Our work has identified multiple areas of concern, such as the high volume of misleading "native" advertising on online news websites, internet users' dissatisfication with clickbait techniques, and dark patterns in political, health, and software ads.

This work is supported in part by the National Science Foundation under awards CNS-1565252 and CNS-1651230, and by the UW Tech Policy Lab, which receives support from: the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Microsoft, the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.