Several years ago Google kicked me out of one of their programs.
Many of you know that I used to design web sites and web applications "on the side". I did many of them at or below cost with the agreement that I would include advertisements and a Google search bar on the site so I could offer a discount to the site owner and I could recoup the discount through the ad revenue over time. The ads on the site were placed as part of Google's AdSense program.
I never made much through the program. At the end I was making about $100 each month - not bad for not really doing anything.
I would hope that those who know me would consider me to be an honest person. (In fact, I know several who might say I can be too honest, and that I should keep some of my true thoughts and feelings to myself.) I like rules. I always want to know what the polices and boundaries are, so I can operate within them.
So I was shocked when I received an email from Google in August of 2012 that said they had evidence of "invalid click activity" and were barring me from further participation in the AdSense program. They said they could not share the details "in order to protect [their] proprietary detection systems". Google's Terms & Conditions are very clear on the point of being banned: if you are banned, it is indefinite.
I never clicked on my our ads, and I never paid or asked anyone else to do so. They wouldn't even tell me on which site the "invalid click activity" took place, so I couldn't review the logs to find out what really happened.
Of course I appealed the decision through their system, and have now appealed it three or four times (I've lost count). Most recently, I appealed yesterday. All of them had the same outcome: "Thank you for your appeal. We appreciate your continued interest in the AdSense program. However, after thoroughly reviewing your account and taking into consideration the information that you have provided, our specialists have confirmed that we are unable to reinstate your AdSense account."
At this point I no longer maintain any of those original sites. I've significantly reduced the amount of side jobs I do in lieu of announcing. But it bothers me that (a) I have this stain on my reputation and (b) I couldn't use AdSense for anything in the future. I'd really like to start a YouTube channel and monetize it, but that's not in the cards for me.
From what I read online there are lots of people out there who find themselves in my situation. When it comes to alleged invalid click activity, Google is judge, jury, executioner, and the appeals court... all in one. Don't misunderstand me, I think Google is a great company. I think they are one of the most innovative employers, and really come up with some great ideas and programs. But this process just isn't fair.