Supporting spyware

The practice of advertising in spyware directly supports spyware itself.  It’s something that’s garnered some attention, with the New York AG’s office coming to a settlement in January with three major online advertisers over the matter.

However, Ben Edelman shows how this practice is continuing. 

“…despite their duties to the NYAG, both Cingular and Travelocity have failed to sever their ties with spyware vendors. As shown in the six examples below, Cingular and Travelocity continue to receive spyware-originating traffic, including traffic from some of the web’s most notorious and most widespread spyware, in direct violation of their respective Assurances of Discontinuance. That said, Priceline seems to have succeeded in substantially reducing these relationships — suggesting that Cingular and Travelocity could do better if they put forth appropriate effort.”

It’s worth noting that advertisements are typically placed through third party advertising networks (to see how this works, read my earlier blog entry here).  Because they are using an intermediary, some advertisers may claim that they can’t control where their ads are placed, which is a crock. Just because you buy ads through a third-party ad network does not mean you can’t control it. For example, when one major security software company found its products being advertised inadvertently in spyware, they found the source and clamped down — and this is a company that advertisers a lot online.  The same goes for a number of other companies. 

To avoid getting ads placed in spyware, an advertiser can, at the least, a) choose third party ad networks that have a demonstrated track record of not placing ads in spyware and b) make the third party ad network attest in writing that they will not place your ads in spyware. 

Things have gotten better in the third party ad network side.  When AOL bought Advertising.com, they immediately dumped $100 million in business that was being done through spyware.  And a number of other third party ad networks are clamping down, refusing to advertise through spyware programs.

But as Ben writes, it’s still happening.  And that money spent by advertisers directly supports the makers of spyware.

Alex Eckelberry

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