Large well-respected companies are helping to fund the virulent spread of unwanted and potentially harmful "adware" by paying for advertisements generated by those programs, a new report by CDT finds. In "Following the Money: How Advertising Dollars Encourage Nuisance and Harmful Adware and What Can be Done to Reverse the Trend," CDT details how -- through a complicated network of intermediaries -- major advertisers pay to have their products and services advertised though pop-ups and other ads generated by unwanted advertising software or "adware." The report dissects the financial relationships behind those arrangements and identifies a number of mainstream companies that advertise through one particularly unscrupulous adware distributor.
Full CDT report here (PDF). The report addresses the big question: "are brand-name companies wittingly delivering their ads via nuisance or harmful adware, or are they truly unaware that this is taking place?" The CDT contacted 18 advertisers whose ads were served by 180solutions, an adware company with a well documented history of unfair and deceptive practices. (The CDT filed an extensive complaint against 180solutions with the FTC in January). The CDT asked the companies whether or not they had "advertising policies addressing nuisance or harmful adware." Out of the 18 companies, 11 did not respond. Those 11 are: True.com, PerfectMatch, Club Med Americas, LetsTalk.com, uBid, ProFlowers, GreetingCards.com, NetZero, People PC, Altrec and Waterfront Media. The CDT report details their communication with other companies, including Netflix and eHarmony, that did respond.
Ben Edelman's write up is here. He posted screenshots of ads received from 180solutions during recent testing. Note the ads from 180solutions partially obstructing the web pages -- on a Blockbuster page, you see an ad for Netflix; and on the Hallmark site, you see an ad for GreetingCards.com.