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Google Fights Order To Surrender Names Of Search Marketers

A federal judge has ordered Google to reveal the identities of four AdWords advertisers who were clients of search engine marketing agency Wpromote. The order comes as part of a lawsuit involving Google’s AdSense for Domains and AdSense for Errors programs, in which plaintiffs argue that the search company placed their ads on low-quality web pages.

The marketers’ data was introduced anonymously as part of the search company’s defense, in an effort to prove that parked domains and error pages could produce good conversion rates. Since the report, authored by Wpromote CEO Michael Mothner, was part of the defense, U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd ruled that the names of the advertisers should be disclosed, so that plaintiffs could dispute whether the report is representative.

The order issued earlier this month is the latest twist in a consolidated case, now being argued in the Northern District of California, that encompasses six different lawsuits originally filed against Google in 2008. Plaintiffs include RK West, JIT Packaging, Pulaski & Middleman, West Coast Cameras, Hal Levitte and Richard Oesterling.

Despite a December 22 deadline for disclosure, Google continues to argue against the requirement to divulge the client’s identities, claiming that it is 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.

Google’s AdSense for Domains and AdSense for Errors programs deliver ads to Internet users when they land at a non-editorial domain or an error page, often by accident after mistyping a URL.

MediaPost was first to report Tuesday on this latest development in the case.

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