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January 23, 2006

Group Petitions FTC To Shut Down Adware Maker

Courtesy of TechWeb News

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A public policy group filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission Monday against 180solutions and one of its partners, and asked the FTC to shutter one of the adware industry's biggest players.

Washington, D.C.-based Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) filed a pair of complaints with the FTC, alleging that 180solutions' "core business model depends on third-party affiliates committing unfair and deceptive practices on the company's behalf" and that the free Web hosting provider, a 180solutions affiliate, "dupes people into installing 180solutions’ software."

The complaint is the biggest move against an adware purveyor since the FTC pulled the plug last November to shut down three adware companies, Enternet Media, Conspy & Co., and Networld One.

"This is an ongoing pattern of unfair and deceptive trade practices that really show that the company has not taken previous warnings or previous concerns into account," said Ari Schwartz, the deputy director of the CDT.

180solutions has been heavily criticized by anti-adware researchers for everything from using Internet Explorer security vulnerabilities to install its software to hiding its disclosure policies inside long legal notices. In response, the Bellevue, Wash.-based Web company said rogue partners were to blame for some practices, and actually took some of those affiliates to court. It also made changes to its download software.

But in November, a massive botnet operation in the Netherlands was found to be installing 180solutions' software and cashing in as an affiliate.

The CDT said it had been working with 180solutions for more than two years to address concerns, but that progress stalled as complaints about the firm kept pouring in.

"180solutisons said they’ve cleaned up," Schwartz said. "But CDT finds this to be deceptive. We want to give fair notice to companies thinking about advertising with 180solutions that they keep this in mind."

In essence, the CDT concluded that it was 180solutions business model that was at fault. "There is a core flaw in their business practices that causes them to continue to engage in these deceptive relations with affiliates and put unwanted software on people’s computers," added David McGuire, a spokesman for the CDT.

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