Dave, I see that Google’s just released AdSense for RSS and it seems like a great idea (though I’m a bit leery, based on your article about the dangers of RSS advertising) but it seems that there are some oddities in the Terms of Service. Have you read it? What are your thoughts?
I’ve been reading through the terms of service myself and wondering about some of the terms too. Here’s my take on it, the bold passages are direct quotes, with my commentary after: You will ensure that Google’s programming elements are not modified, so that, if applicable, Google receives with each AFF Ad request the end user IP address and an unmodified URL associated with the Web site or reader on which the AFF Ad will be displayed.
I interpret this as meaning that they are going to be the only ones able to collect and analyze traffic data, which is going to cause some frustration as many of my colleagues have been using various tools to intercept and relay clicks on AdSense adverts so that they can track on a per-page basis how adverts are doing. Caveat: I don’t use these tools, however, because as I interpret the AdSense terms of service as prohibiting this exact behavior too.
This is the more interesting clause, however: You will ensure that each feed user complies with, and each feed user’s display of AFF Ads is in compliance with, all of the terms and conditions of the amended Agreement applicable to the Site in the same manner that such terms and conditions apply to You and the Site. Greg at NewsGator and the rest of you RSS reader programmers, are you reading this? If you were to offer a way for readers to strip ads out of RSS feeds, or if programmers are going to write ad-blockers that can block AdSense for Feeds advertising, you’ll end up getting the feed producer – the blogger – in trouble with Google too.
Is it me, or does this violate the tenet that you can’t be penalized for links that point to you and its obvious corollary, “you can’t be penalized for how other people view or use the data from your Web site”. But now you can. Here’s how you mess with someone now: grab their RSS feed, strip out the AdSense for RSS data, present the rest on a Web page or in a new ‘clean’ feed, and blamo, they’ll have their account terminated.
The Terms of Service continues: You agree you will be responsible and liable for any and all use of the AFF Ads by any feed user and will indemnify Google for any lawsuit or proceeding (a) relating to or arising from any feed user’s use of AFF…
I believe that this begins to address the issue of advertisers sueing Google for fake clicks, among other things. In the event Google provides You with written notice that (a) a feed user is in breach of the requirements of the amended Agreement, (b) a feed user has been in breach of the requirements of the amended Agreement more than two (2) times notwithstanding any cure of such breaches; or (c) Google has determined in its sole reasonable discretion that the display of AFF Ads by such feed user damages Google’s brand, reputation or goodwill, then You will…
Again, the same issue that you’ll get in trouble if someone else uses your feed in a way that Google doesn’t like. Worse, what exactly does “sole reasonable discretion” mean? Who decides “reasonable” in this case, particularly given that Google is now a publicly traded company? immediately suspend (as defined below) all access to AFF Ads it has provided to the applicable feed user…
That’s an interesting technical challenge. Quick! Can you prevent a single user from accessing your RSS or Atom feed? … if such breach is not cured by the feed user to Google’s satisfaction within five (5) days of Your receipt of notice from Google, terminate any agreement between You and the breaching feed user that provides for the access to AFF Ads by such feed user. As used in this Agreement, the term “suspend” shall mean that upon Google’s written request, You will immediately remove or cause to be removed any AFF Ads implemented or displayed by the applicable feed user.
Got that? If the subscriber to your RSS feed does something that violates your terms of service for AdSense for Feeds, then you need to either get them to change what they’re doing or automatically switch them to a feed that doesn’t include the AdSense ads, or you’re going to be shut down, as detailed below: The duration of any suspension will be until Google is reasonably satisfied that no breach by the applicable feed user has occurred, the applicable feed user has cured the breach giving rise to such suspension, or until the agreement applicable to the breaching feed user has been otherwise terminated and the feed user ceases to display AFF Ads. In the event You are unable to suspend such feed user, Google may, in its sole discretion, immediately suspend and/or terminate Your access to AFF until such time as the feed user is suspended and/or terminated.
That’s the kicker. If someone does something Google doesn’t like with your RSS feed, then you have less than a week to fix it. If you don’t, Google will suspend your account until, somehow, you fix it. One question I have, though, is whether that extends to your entire AdSense account, or just AdSense for Feeds. Hmm….
Oh, and technically, I’m violating confidentiality by even writing this Weblog posting too. On a public page where anyone can pop over and read the content, they also include in the terms of service that Google Confidential Information will include the existence and content of these AFF Terms.
Shhh…. don’t tell anyone, okay? Finally, it’s darn hard to figure out exactly what a terms of service agreement says, so if you interpret these terms differently, please do add a comment here and help us all figure out exactly what’s being said.