Big Ads Add to Adware, Spyware

Major Internet advertisers are financing — sometimes unwittingly — the
spread of potentially harmful adware and spyware, according to a new Center
for Democracy and Technology (CDT) finger pointing report.

The report targets mainstream advertisers whose ads appear through
180solutions, one of the world’s largest developers of Internet advertising

Earlier this year, the CDT filed a complaint against
the Bellevue, Wash.-based 180solutions with the Federal Trade Commission
(FTC), accusing 180solutions of “deliberately and repeatedly” engaging in
illegal and deceptive spyware practices.

According to the CDT, once the software is installed, often without consent,
it tracks users’ online movements and displays often unwanted popup
advertisements based on the sites they visit.

Monday’s CDT report focuses on advertisers doing business with 180solutions.

“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,” CDT Deputy Director Ari Schwartz said
during a teleconference.

“Because the adware financing model is willfully
convoluted, many companies may not know where their advertising dollars are
ending up.”

The CDT identified 20 well-known advertisers doing business with
180solutions and attempted to contact each about their advertising policies.

“It is important to note that the advertisers we contacted may or may not
have a direct relationship with 180solutions,” the CDT report states. “Given
the nature of the Internet advertising industry, it is possible for
companies to have several intermediaries between themselves and adware

The report adds, however, “Our testing, which included the use of a packer
sniffer to monitor how the ads were loaded, suggested that many of these
advertisers did deal directly with 180solutions to place their ads.”

Seven advertisers responded to the CDT’s inquiries. Companies not responding
to the CDT’s inquiries included, PerfectMatch, Club Med Americas,
uBid, ProFlowers,, NetZero, PeoplePC, Altrec and
Waterfront Media.

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