Old School ad scam hits Facebook; switches users to Microsoft's Bing

Old School ad scam hits Facebook; switches users to Microsoft's Bing

Summary: It's been a long time since we've seen any of those old ad scams that reset the browser's home page and changes the default settings - but they're back. And this time, the ad is working its way through Facebook - and benefiting Microsoft's Bing search engine.

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It's been a long time since we've seen any of those old ad scams that reset the browser's home page and changes the default settings - but they're back. And this time, the ad is working its way through Facebook - and benefiting Microsoft's Bing search engine. (Techmeme)

The word "scam" is a loaded one because it implies that the people behind it are doing something illegal - and that doesn't necessarily seem to be the case. What they're doing may be deceptive but the folks who click a mouse button to grant permission without reading the fine print are certainly opting-in to allow a third-party to change their settings - just like they would do to activate the pop-up windows back in the early days of Web surfing.

This issue surfaced when Advertising Age reported on an eMarketer report that found an unknown site called make-my-baby.com was the third largest advertiser on Facebook, buying 1.75 billion ad impressions in the third quarter. That's when Matt Cutts, a software engineer at Google, started poking around - and posted his findings on Buzz. He wrote:

Visiting make-my-baby.com instantly prompts you to install a browser plugin. The "terms and conditions" link takes you to http://mmb.bingstart.com/terms/ which has phrases like "If Chrome ("CR") is installed on your PC we may change the default setting of your home page on CR to Bingstart.com."

...If make-my-baby.com is Facebook's 3rd biggest advertiser, I wonder how many people are installing this software without reading the fine print that says "Installing the toolbar includes managing the browser default search settings and setting your homepage to bing.com" ?

Now, nothing here implies that Microsoft is even hip to what's going on. After all, this is affiliate marketing and there are plenty of third-party companies out there who find creative ways - or revive old ways - of getting people to agree to terms and conditions in exchange for a plug-in that unlocks a game or some other feature.  It's not necessarily illegal when users offer their consent. But it certainly reeks of unethical behavior.

More importantly, it also prompts a question over the advertising practices. If this is the third-largest advertiser on Facebook - behind AT&T and Match.com - then it certainly must have caught the attention of someone at that company. Is anyone watching what these advertisers are doing or are they just humming all the way to the bank with a fat check?

Again, this isn't to say that Facebook is doing anything wrong either - but for a company that's constantly under the spotlight for its practices around user privacy and other sensitive matters, one might think that the company would keep a closer eye on what it's advertisers are subjecting the users to.

Then again, there are plenty of people on Facebook who are doing some pretty crazy things - like downloading any and every game or posting their new cell phone numbers on their profiles. It's no wonder that this third-party company saw an opportunity to make a few bucks on an audience that often leaves its guard down.

Topics: Collaboration, Apple, CXO, iPad, Mobility, Security, AT&T

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21 comments
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  • RE: Old School ad scam hits Facebook; switches users to Microsoft's Bing

    Switching to Bing? I consider that doing the user a favor.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Old School ad scam hits Facebook; switches users to Microsoft's Bing

      @Loverock Davidson
      As much as I hate to agree with you Loverock, I have to agree, only because I'm personally more fond of Bing than google for results. I, however, feel that just like all other terms of use agreements, all changes made should be in large print, bold, and have a check box next to them to ensure the user is aware of what they are doing, even if it does annoy them to have to click the check boxes.
      Cyrorm
      • Master Joe Says...The Problem

        @Cyrorm The problem is, as much as we would love to do it, condoning ANY of these types of actions only lessens the credibility when we don't like the outcome. I totally agree with the statement taht Bing is a better search engine than Google (even if most people don't realize it largely due to using Google for years and old habits being hard to break and all that). But, even if Bing is the destination, the journey is the important part here. There are plenty of people to point the finger at for this (the ad creator, Facebook), but the mechanisms just aren't tehre for this type of thing to be policed. And, government involvement and control are NOT the answers. There should be a much simpler way to report such things, have them investigated, and have them removed. Make the users the police. Craigslist is trying to push this in their personal ads to try and encourage their users to report SPAM. Why not expand it to a net-wide practice?

        --Master Joe
        SteelCityPC
      • RE: Old School ad scam hits Facebook; switches users to Microsoft's Bing

        next to them to ensure the user is aware of what they are doing, even if it does annoy them to have to click the check


        http://www.casella.com.tr
        ofis koltuklari
    • After Bang got me lost in Las Vegas

      @Loverock Davidson ... let me on a wild goose chase and killed half my evening, I won't be giving it a second chance, not when Google and its maps have always worked perfectly.
      HollywoodDog
      • Of course. An MS hater, using as MS app or offering

        which [b]allways[/b] happen to fail whenever they use the product, the same thing that happens whenever they use an MS product.

        Of course it's believable. Really, it is... :)
        John Zern
      • RE: Old School ad scam hits Facebook; switches users to Microsoft's Bing

        @HollywoodDog <br>Bing maps have been going through a lot of transitions lately. Every time I visit, some new feature is there, or some old feature has gone, and then the next time, it's switched again...<br><br>However, Bing search is honestly a lot better than Google's, and has been for some time. Google's search is actually one area in which I think Google are seriously loosing ground to competitors. (Everywhere else, they're cruising...)
        x I'm tc
  • Facebook has helped

    Create a new generation of careless users....
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • lol, being forced to Bing...

    This ranks right up there with being rick rolled.
    jasonp@...
  • Facebook

    Is there a week that goes by that facebook isn't involved, one way or another, in some scandal or privacy issue?
    sackbut
  • Only fools post their DATA on the Public_Web

    It is very fascinating how people are so naive to post
    all of this PERSONAL information on a Public_Sewer_Net.

    Commonsense tells you that the data you send out is
    NO longer under your control...
    open_source_01
    • RE: Old School ad scam hits Facebook; switches users to Microsoft's Bing

      @open_source_01 ... You'd think so, wouldn't you. :)
      Trep Ford
  • Can you send me your SS number and mother's maiden name for &quot;security&quot;?

    ;-)
    kd5auq
    • Sure!

      @kd5auq

      *Clicks 'Next'*....
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Check out the advertiser above make-my-baby...

    I think it's important to note because the dude who broke this story in the first place is Matt Cutts, who works at Google. He somehow completely ignored that Google powers (via IAC/Ask.com, the 2nd biggest advertiser) a less compliant, much more aggressive version of this same technology. In the same way that a financial columnist has to note what stocks he/she owns, Matt really should have disclosed this in the original article.

    http://ourbabymaker.com/babyApp/

    IAC is the same company that makes Google powered Smiley Central toolbars that used to do ActiveX silent installs across the web, which is not only spammy but probably violates consumer protection laws.
    animalsinwar
  • Old School ad scam...

    I think you're missing the point here - which is exactly what Zugo Ltd want you to do. I've come across this kind of stuff before with a similar parasitic company called Conduit.<br><br>Basically, what happens is that they present you with a search page which LOOKS like bing.com or google.com......but isn't. The search is "powered" by the real search providers, but there's a middle man - Zugo (or Conduit) - who filters your search details, and presents you with results biased towards their paying customers.<br><br>(Note: I'm not sure how complicit Microsoft or Google are in these matters. It is possible that their systems merely allow this sort of thing to happen without their express knowledge or consent).<br><br>zugo.com gives very little away on their website - just some vacuous bilge regarding "brand awareness", etc. (Although there is a small clue if you understand what they do: "The search pages allow you to extend your brand to your users' online activies."). conduit.com are far more explicit with what they do - check it out.<br><br>The key to this con is their "Toolbar", which looks pretty innocent (perhaps even useful) - but its heart is rotten. Once you've agreed (and these things are *designed* to look innocuous), they've got access to a whole lot of information - including private info from Facebook.<br><br>Furthermore, these programs are notoriously difficult to get rid of completely from your computer. Yes, there may be an "Uninstall", but they do a very thorough job of changing your settings (beyond making themselves your search page). And of course they don't remove themselves from your registry. A search for "zugo toolbar" shows how many people are complaining about being hijacked, of getting malware/adware warnings from their security software, etc. (eg. zugo.adware)<br><br>If there's one thing I try to warn all my friends/family away from, it's installing Toolbars along with other programs - or within Facebook. Whether they promise convenient search, games, smileys, customizable buttons, tea-making facilities, or whatever......DO NOT INSTALL.<br><br>One instance that really got my goat up was ZoneAlarm (the tried and trusted firewall company) who bundle their *Toolbar* with their program. It is supposed to provide you with extra security and convenience. In reality it is Conduit's nasty little search scam. Tried, but certainly not trusted!
    bluebeard66
    • RE: Old School ad scam hits Facebook; switches users to Microsoft's Bing

      @bluebeard66 ... Nicely said. A generally good rule of thumb when it comes to free offerings you didn't ask for ... PASS!

      Another pet peeve of mine is sites that supposedly exist to allow you to gather useful information but which require you to fork over your own vital stats before allowing you to proceed. PASS!
      Trep Ford
  • Marketing Online

    .
    e_caroline@...
  • Marketing Online

    One wonders how many advertisers are actually checking to see cost/benefit rates in online advertising.<br><br>Compare it to spam ads.... one never sees any "good products" advertised via spam-vertising. <br><br>One sees junk and you know many spam-vertisers are newbies to business and are naive and who are ultra-impressed by the sheer volume of ads generated.. and certainly always figure "Gee.. if just 1/10 of 1% of these folks buy my widgets, I'll be rich". <br><br>They get charged some fee to have the professional spammer pass the word. The spammer just needs a supply of newbies to harvest.<br><br>The same notion seems to kick in in a lot of online advertising.<br><br>We cannot necessarily figure big, "name" companies are paying too close attention either.. since they will have farmed out advertising to an agency which need only show that the collective "advertising campaign" is effective....including all sorts of ads in all sorts of media.<br><br>Measuring effectiveness of any kind of online advertising seems pretty complicated.. except if you run your own online catalog and count the dollars and orders directly generated.<br><br>Companies like Facebook.. among others... seem to be too often run by people who cannot quite absorb a "gut level savvy" for how advertising and marketing really work. <br><br>They seem to often operate in a "this ought to be successful" mode and to not really check much further to see if the "oughta work" actually "does work".<br><br>Ads and marketing are a combo of gut-level-intuition, art and science.... there is no rote formula that guarantees success.
    e_caroline@...
    • RE: Old School ad scam hits Facebook; switches users to Microsoft's Bing

      @e_caroline@...

      well... facebook has become huge, so i guess their current formula is working, no matter how much we complain about it.

      so far i've successfully resisted the various urgings of friends and family to join the facebook cult ;)
      erik.soderquist