Hot off the wires: A complaint was filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against IST (Integrated Search Technologies) by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) for alleged spyware operations. The complaint alleges that IST and its affiliates "have engaged in a widespread campaign of installing unwanted software on users computers, and have done so using unfair and deceptive practices prohibited by federal law".
Specific practices outlined in the complaint include use of deceptive dialogue boxes, installation of up to 12 advertising programs that offer no user benefit and the use of unfairly difficult uninstillation procedures. ContextPlus, SurfAccuracy, Meridian Business Ventures, QuickLinks and Internet Optimizer are named as partners whose software is deceptively installed by IST along with IST's own software. The complaint also states that IST is known for using exploits to install software. Indeed, I have witnessed that repeatedly. The full complaint, which can be viewed here (PDF), shows screenshots documenting deceptive installation procedures from NegativeBeats.com, a site that claims to offer free mp3 files of popular artists.
Interestingly, the complaint states "CDT believes that the manufacturers of advertising display software should be held responsible for the illegal practices" and lists reasons including the fact that these companies continued to work with IST despite the wealth of documentation about IST's bad practices.
Companies must be held responsible for the actions of their affiliates. While this is an established principle of unfair and deceptive practice laws generally, this principal is particularly important in this case because the affiliates are spread around the world. If companies are not held responsible for the actions of their foreign partners, they have no incentive either to scrutinize those partners' practices or to break off profitable relationships with known bad actors.
Amen, well said!
The CIPPIC is filing a similar complaint against Integrated Search Technologies with Canadian authorities. IST and their products are known by a number of names in spyware circles, including XXXToolbar, SearchBarCash-Hijacker, PowerScan, DownloadPlus, ToolBarCash, YourSiteBar, SearchCompanion, Slotch or Slotch toolbar, AzeSearch and Sidefind.
The complaint asks the FTC to investigate Integrated Search Technologies, the other companies named and their partners and affiliates. The CDT's press release can be found here. (PDF) The CIPPIC's complaint can be downloaded here (PDF) and their Affidavit here (PDF).