Big Firms Contribute to Unwanted Adware, Report Says
Major corporations with well-respected brand name products and services are helping to spread potentially harmful adware over the Internet, according to a report by the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). In “Following the Money: How Advertising Dollars Encourage Nuisance and Harmful Adware and What Can be Done to Reverse the Trend,” CDT reveals how — through a complex mix of intermediaries — major advertisers pay to have their products and services advertised through “pop-ups” and other ads produced by advertising software or “adware.”
“Knowingly or not, these companies are fueling the spread of unwanted programs that clog people’s computers, threaten privacy and tarnish the Internet experience for millions,” says CDT deputy director Ari Schwartz. “Because the adware financing model is willfully convoluted, many companies may not know where their advertising dollars are ending up. We’re urging those advertisers to be more vigilant to ensure that they aren’t unwittingly bankrolling one of the Internet’s fastest-growing problems.”
The report details the financial relationships behind the adware arrangements and identifies several well-known companies that advertise through one particularly disreputable adware distributor. The report urges all companies that advertise online to adopt and enforce meaningful ad placement policies. Earlier this year, CDT filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that 180solutions, one of the largest adware distributors, had engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices. The complaint detailed how 180solutions and its affiliates had duped countless Internet users into downloading the company’s advertising software.
CDT officials have indicated that the group expects to increase its scrutiny of companies that support nuisance or harmful adware with their advertising dollars. For an electronic copy
of the CDT report, see <www.cdt.org/privacy/20060320adware.pdf>.
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