DirectRevenue settles FTC charges of deceptive use of adware

DirectRevenue LLC, a large adware distributor, and four of its principals have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they used unfair and deceptive methods in violation of federal law to download adware onto consumers’ computers and then obstructed them from removing it.

The complaint named DirectRevenue LLC, Direct Revenue Holdings LLC, Joshua Abram, Daniel Kaufman, Alan Murray and Rodney Hook. They are all based in New York.

The settlement bars future downloads of DirectRevenue’s adware without consumers’ express consent and requires DirectRevenue to provide a reasonable and effective way for consumers to locate and remove the adware from their computers. The settlement also requires DirectRevenue to give up $1.5 million in ill-gotten gains.

According to the FTC complaint, DirectRevenue installed its adware on consumers’ computers directly and through a large network of affiliates and sub-affiliates. The adware, including programs named The Best Offers, A Better Internet and Aurora, monitors consumers’ Internet use in order to display targeted pop-up ads.

The FTC alleged that DirectRevenue and its affiliates frequently offered consumers free content and software — including screensavers, games, and utilities — without disclosing adequately that downloading the software would result in installation of the adware.

In other instances, some of DirectRevenue’s affiliates exploited security vulnerabilities in Web browsers to install the adware, according to the FTC.

In addition, the FTC charged that DirectRevenue deliberately made it difficult to identify, locate, and remove the adware once it was installed. When DirectRevenue provided an uninstall tool at separate Web sites, it required consumers to follow a 10-step procedure involving the download of additional software and deactivation of all third-party firewalls, thus exposing consumers’ computers to security risks.

The FTC charged that DirectRevenue’s failure to disclose adequately that downloading the free content and software would result in installation of the adware was deceptive, and that its use of security exploits to download the adware was an unfair practice. The FTC also charged that DirectRevenue’s failure to provide consumers with a reasonable and effective means to identify, locate, and remove the adware from their computers was unfair and in violation of the FTC act.

The FTC will publish an announcement regarding the agreement in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment by March 21, after which the FTC will decide whether to make it final.

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