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America Online and Advertising.com

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#1 micaman


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Posted 01 September 2005 - 02:36 AM

Source: Court Records / FTC / Government Settlements

Advertising.com., Inc., now a subsidiary of America Online, Inc., has agreed to settle FTC charges that it violated federal law by offering free security software, but failing to disclose adequately that adware was bundled with that software. 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 hyperlink 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 complaint charges that in representing that SpyBlast is an Internet security program, the respondents did not adequately disclose that SpyBlast included adware that caused consumers

to receive pop-up ads. It alleges that the presence of the bundled adware would be material to consumers deciding whether to install SpyBlast, and, therefore, that the failure to disclose it adequately was deceptive.

The proposed consent order prohibits the respondents from making any representations about the performance, benefits, efficacy, or features of SpyBlast or any of their other programs promoted as security or privacy software, unless they clearly and conspicuously disclose that consumers who install the program will receive advertisements, if that is the case. The settlement also requires that the respondents comply with standard record-keeping and other provisions to allow the Commission to monitor compliance with the order. The proposed consent order does not cover America Online, Inc., the parent company of respondent Advertising.com, Inc.

The analysis also states: “The proposed order is designed specifically to address the facts of the case at hand. However, the limitation in the proposed order to respondents' software programs whose principal function is to enhance security or privacy should not be read more broadly to suggest that the requirement for clear and prominent disclosure is necessarily limited to those situations. Moreover, the problem here was not the security software that Advertising.com disseminated with its adware. Instead, it was the respondents’ practice of downloading software onto users’ computers, without adequate notice and consent, that generated repeated pop-up ads as the computer users surfed the Web.”


Edited by micaman, 02 September 2005 - 01:33 AM.

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#2 jgweed


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Posted 01 September 2005 - 08:33 AM

Please document the source of this quoted material.
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Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should be silent.

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