Google Assistant isn’t making users aware that some of its recommendations are being generated by local services ads.
Reuters broke the news, stating that five advertising attorneys agree Google is close to violating its own disclosure rules.
“The feature recommends plumbers and other local home service providers without disclosing that the results draw from a curated database mainly composed of companies that joined a Google marketing program.”
Google has a legal obligation to disclose when its surfacing advertisements in search results. That applies to web search as well as voice search.
When displaying search results on a screen it’s easy to disclose paid listings with a “sponsored” or “ad” label.
How should Google disclose paid results when delivering voice answers? There hasn’t been a need to solve that problem until now.
Michelle Cohen, a Washington, D.C., attorney, recommends adding the following line to spoken search results:
“Disclosing ‘many of the recommended providers may participate in our referral network’…would be relevant and appropriate,”
Google doesn’t exactly need to hurry up and change its practices, however, as Reuters reports the FTC has not received complaints about ads on Google Assistant.
So the issue is either not obvious, or not widespread enough for users to complain that Google Assistant is deceptively delivering sponsored results.
As it stands, Google is not getting paid when results from local home service providers are delivered through Assistant, according to a statement provided to Reuters.
In response, advertising attorneys tell Reuters that users should still be better informed even if Google is not paid for the search results.