Spyware and viruses share some characteristics, but the fact that spyware creators make money for their efforts makes it more prevalent. Ben Edelman exposes how money flows from well-respected companies into the pockets of spyware makers in a recent article titled Intermediaries Role in the Spyware Mess. The study documents how ad networks and brokers obscure how an advertisers ads get shown on the Web.
A couple of points occur to me from reading this article. One, advertisers end up losing control of where and how their ads are shown. No company should let this kind of thing happen, and they dont in other mediums. For example, a company that wanted to maintain a family-oriented message wouldnt want their television ads appearing on a soft-core cable program. And they certainly wouldnt want to be charged for it. And they are being charged for it on the Internet. Second, once they have lost distribution control, they cant expect the advertising to be effective. An ad that goes through two intermediaries and gets delivered via spyware cannot be properly aimed at a demographic. This system is ripping off the advertisers as much as its annoying us.