FTC: Advertising.com Software Offer Contained Adware

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Recent AOL acquisition Advertising.com has settled charges that it failed to properly disclose adware it bundled along with free security software it offered to consumers, the Federal Trade Commission said yesterday.


The settlement includes no financial penalties but requires Advertising.com to fully inform consumers of any adware included with security software it offers in the future.


According to the FTC, Advertising.com used online ads warning that consumers' computers were at risk from hackers because they were broadcasting an IP address. Consumers who clicked on the ad reached an ActiveX installation window with a hyperlink to download a security program called SpyBlast.


The link told consumers to click "yes" if they agreed to a license agreement, the FTC said. However, the link failed to indicate the importance of the license agreement, which revealed that consumers would agree to receive marketing messages and pop-up ads based on Web sites they visited.


The FTC charges stem from Advertising.com's brief experiment with adware in 2003, said Andrew Weinstein, spokesman for AOL. Usage of adware by Advertising.com ended that year, well before AOL purchased the company in June 2005.


AOL supports the FTC in its efforts to control undisclosed adware, Weinstein said. AOL distributes tools to its users for blocking both adware and spyware, he said.


"Advertising.com does not now and will not in the future distribute adware programs," Weinstein said. "AOL has been very aggressive in going after adware and spyware companies."


Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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