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Advertising.com and FTC Settle on SpyBlast AdWare Charges

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Advertising.com and FTC Settle on SpyBlast AdWare Charges

Advertising.com and FTC Settle on SpyBlast AdWare Charges

Seems that AOL owned Advertising.com got in some hot water with the FTC over charges of distributing AdWare to computer users based on user profiling. Advertising.com Inc.reportedly agreed to settle federal charges that the company offered free security software without disclosing the information that it also came with adware. WHAT? Basically Advertising.com was distributing Anti-Virus/Anti-Spyware software which was actually SPYWARE to inexperienced computer users.

The settlement will require that the company clearly and prominently disclose adware bundled with software advertised to enhance security or privacy. “This company offered SpyBlast, a free security program to protect against hackers,” said Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But consumers who downloaded SpyBlast also downloaded a form of software that followed their electronic comings and goings and force-fed them pop-up ads.”

The FTC complaint charged that Advertising.com, Inc., and its co-founder, John Ferber, distributed ads stating that because a consumer’s computer was broadcasting an Internet IP address, it was at risk from hackers. Consumers who clicked on one of the ads were shown an Active X “security warning” installation box, with a hyperlink describing SpyBlast as “Personal Computer Security and Protection Software from unauthorized users” and telling them, “once you agree to the License Terms and Privacy policy – click YES to continue.”

The link did not indicate the nature and significance of the terms of the licensing agreement – namely that adware would be installed on their computers. Consumers were not required to read the agreement before installing the software. If consumers had read the agreement, they might have seen a statement saying that by accepting the software, they agreed to receive marketing messages, including pop-up ads, based on their Internet browsing habits. According to the complaint, the SpyBlast software was bundled with a software program that collected information about consumers, including the URLs of pages they visited, that was used to send them advertisements.

The settlement also requires that Advertising.com comply with standard record-keeping and other provisions to allow the FTC to monitor compliance with the order. The proposed consent order does not cover America Online, Inc., the parent company of respondent Advertising.com, Inc.

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Loren Baker

Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing ... [Read full bio]

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