Though far from the only website to use this practice, I’m calling shame on CNN for failing to let users easily see the actual links behind the advertisements they display. Typically, you are able to hover over a link and see where that link will actually take you, but this functionality is masked on CNN’s ads. In the graphic below, there are three ads from CNN pages, each has links, none of which show you where you’ll actually land if you click on them.
This may be well and good if only legitimate companies with tested and certified-by-CNN links are displayed (giving CNN the liability if you get infected or worse) but why not clearly show users where their click my land them, rather than requiring users to take a leap of faith where it may not be warranted.
As a safety advocate who cautions consumers to know where any link will take them before clicking on it, this masking of URL’s is a safety concern.
The industry needs to define and adhere to a best practice that provides a consistent, transparent approach to helping consumers understand where links will take them. This approach should integrate with tools like McAfee’s Site Advisor, Web Of Trust (WOT), and similar tools offered by browsers, so that users can not only see where the link will take them, but also see the safety rating of that link.
If we want a safer and more secure online experience, we need companies to build safer and more secure online experiences.