Will Unison.ie be Banned From Google for Cloaking?

    March 23, 2007

A nice little find by Niall Donegan who discusses Unison.ie cloaking:

A prime example of this is Unison.ie. When searching for current Irish news it usually ranks fairly high on Google, however all the pages require you register first before you view them. The registration gives no advantage to people like me who just want to a quick look at the latest news. I suspect that I’m not alone and that lots of people will just go back and look for another site.

Unison’s simple user agent checking makes it very easy to get in unmolested though. The User Agent Switcher Plugin for Firefox allows you to easily set exactly what user agent you want your browser to appear as. The GoogleBot isn’t in the list of Useragents available, but it is easily added. Switch to GoogleBot as your useragent, and magically you will have full access to the Unison site.

Now I always knew that they ran a subscription wall on the site, but I hadn’t realised that they were picked up by Google news. There’s been a huge amount of interest in media sites cloaking recently (see here for more). My feeling is that Unison would want to clean this up pretty quick or risk having a lot of egg on their face. As Niall mentions:

I know that Unison will probably close this hole within a few days

Could take quite a bit of work to change the way they present their pages. I suppose they could just set their cloaking routine to let everyone through. But will they?

Nice find Niall.