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Major advertisers outed for financing adware
Published: 2006-03-21

Hoping to shame advertisers, the Center for Democracy and Technology released a report on Monday naming companies that apparently have bought space on adware affiliate networks.

The report identifies major companies whose ads have appeared on 180solutions adware affiliate network in hopes of convincing the companies to increase control over their advertising. Generally, firms do not know where their ads will appear, because advertising agencies are responsible for determining how to spend marketing dollars. For online advertising, such ad agencies buy space through ad networks that place ads among a variety of sites or might resell the contract to another ad network. In some cases, the contract ends up with an adware affiliate network.

"Knowingly or not, these companies are fueling the spread of unwanted programs that clog people's computers, threaten privacy and tarnish the Internet experience for millions," Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the CDT, said in a statement. "Because the adware financing model is willfully convoluted, many companies may not know where their advertising dollars are ending up."

For adware companies, profits depends on the number of people they can convince to install their software, with some experts estimating that each PC installed with adware is worth $3 to the company each year, making the overall market somewhere in the vicinity of $2 billion. The profit potential is attractive enough that some bot herders--the criminals that control networks of compromised PCs--use the networks to install adware on each infected system.

Companies whose advertising appeared on computers running 180solutions adware include PerfectMatch, uBid, GreetingCards.com, NetZero and PeoplePC, according to the CDT report.

The ads of another company, online movie rental service Netflix, appeared on 180solutions adware affiliate network, even though the company has policies against advertising with such networks. The example underscores the difficulty in controlling advertising online, the CDT said.



Posted by: Robert Lemos
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