According to Atlas, a product from Google Labs called Web Accelerator has been artificially increasing the number of clicks on advertisements before they put certain filters in place. To quote Atlas:
"As a result of increased use of the Google Web Accelerator application, Atlas has recently experienced a gradual increase in click counts. Due to the methodology of the application, the activity from Google's proxy servers included an inflated number of non-human clicks on advertisements during the pre-requesting process.
Due to the significant level of activity from these proxy servers, we made the decision to implement an immediate block on the majority of activity from the servers as of July 4th. At the same time, we began development on a more sophisticated filter which identifies pre-fetch requests of Atlas ads by the Google Web Accelerator; therefore, letting us accurately count legitimate clicks from users of the application, while continuing to ignore invalid clicks. Starting July 15th, this filtering technique replaced the initial block that eliminated all traffic from those users."
If you are an advertiser paying on a CPC for display ads you may may be over-paying for your advertising. I can only hope that DoubleClick and other ad serving systems are creating filters for this product as well.
Apparently this product has been around since May of 2005 and raised some serious concerns even back then. On May 11th 2005 CNET published an article that discussed some of the security concerns with this product, and hinted that Google was pulling the product. While still a Google Labs product and not fully released, there is no longer a limitation on how many people may download the web accelerator.
Based on all of the negative reviews and problems this seems to cause you'd think Google would have pulled this off the shelves by now...