Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Spyware Plagues Online Ad Networks

180solutions filed suit in August against seven former distributors alleging they used botnets to surreptitiously install the company’s search software without notice or consent. “We deplore botnets,” says Sean Sundwall, spokesman for 180solutions, which has shut down more than 500 of its more than 8,000 distributors in the past nine months for failing to receive “informed consent” from a user.

Ire also could be directed toward the companies who make their living off selling ads through extensive networks -- like Yahoo Inc., Google Inc. and American Online Inc. -- each with its own set of rules about adware and diligence about policing them. For a quick scorecard, Schwartz praises Google for its advertising policies and says AOL has done the best job of enforcement while Yahoo lags behind, choosing to lead work on an industry standard.

And then there are the advertisers, who pay as much as several dollars for every click on one of their pop-up pitches. "That's were the money starts," Schwartz says. "The chain begins and ends with the advertisers themselves."

Yahoo gained unwanted attention earlier this month when spyware researcher and consultant Ben Edelman reported that Yahoo-syndicated ads appeared more frequently than any other pay-per-click ad network in his tests of various spyware-infected PCs.

"Yahoo has been more willing to take on dubious partners and allow their partners to have partners so that Yahoo couldn't know where the ads are appearing. It's created a real monster in terms of ads getting distributed all over the place," Edelman says. "There's not much accountability as to who's doing what."

  • 1