Spyware Sucks
“There is no magic fairy dust protecting Macs" – Dai Zovi, author of “The Mac Hacker’s Handbook"

Groundbreaking settlements hold online advertisers responsible for displaying ads through deceptively installed adware programs

January 30th 2007 in Uncategorized

That’s one hell of a headline, yes?  It’s taken from this announcement by the Office of the New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo:


Basically, thanks to their involvement with Direct Revenue (having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars delivering advertisements through Direct Revenue software) Priceline.com Incorporated (“Priceline”), Travelocity.com LP (“Travelocity”) and Cingular Wireless LLC (“Cingular”) have been found responsible for how their advertisements are displayed on user’s computers.  To quote the press release:


““Advertisers will now be held responsible when their ads end up on consumers’ computers without full notice and consent,” Cuomo said.  “Advertisers can no longer insulate themselves from liability by turning a blind eye to how their advertisements are delivered, or by placing ads through intermediaries, such as media buyers.  New Yorkers have suffered enough with unwanted adware programs and this agreement goes a long way toward clamping down on this odious practice.””


Priceline, Travelocity and Cingular all promise to:


  • Provide to consumers full disclosure of the name of the applicable adware program and any bundled software;

  • Brand each advertisement with a prominent and easily identifiable brand name or icon;

  • Fully describe the adware and obtain consumer consent to both download and run the adware;

  • Make it practicable for consumers to remove the adware from their computers;

  • Obtain consent to continue serving ads to legacy users;

  • Require their affiliates to meet all of these same requirements.

  • Undertake “due diligence” when selecting and using adware providers including investigating how the online ads are delivered.

  • Immediately cease using any adware provider if said provider breaches the above terms “or their own adware policies”.

Priceline will pay $35,000 to the State of New York as penalties and investigatory costs, Travelocity will pay $30,000 for the same reason, and Cingular will pay $35,000, again as penalties and investigatory costs.


The implications of this decision are quite staggering, and will force media buyers and other intermediaries and those who buy content from them, to clean up their act, unless they want to lose advertising income from their reputable clientele.


I would have liked one more condition to be added to the agreement between the New York State Attorney General and Priceline, Travelocity and Cingular, that being that if their media buyers or other intermediary are shown to be allowing cr*p like Winfixer to be promoted via a service also used by Priceline, Travelocity and Cingular, that they (Cingular, Travelocity and Cingular) should stop using said media buyers or other intermediary unless and until the media buyers or other intermediary stops said malware advertisements.


The words “or their own adware policies” could be a stumbling block for media buyers and other intermediaries such as Right Media and those they on-sell to.  What if, for example, Company X has a “no spyware or malware” policy.  It could be said that the New York agreements mean that if the companies in question hire media buyer or intermediary X, and that supplier also has, for example, people who are distributing Winfixer as a client, then the companies affected by the New York settlement could quite likely be beholden to dump media buyer X as their supplier.


That scenario, as far as I’m concerned, would make me very happy indeed.  I want the media buyers, intermediaries and anybody else who conspires and contributes to the distribution of malware like winfixer via pop-up ads to become internet pariahs, avoided by reputable companies and relegated to the world of has-beens, avoided by anybody who values their reputation.

The full “Assurance of Disclosure” can be found here:

One comment to...
“Groundbreaking settlements hold online advertisers responsible for displaying ads through deceptively installed adware programs”


Thats great news Sandi 🙂

Yay. Thanks to Susan for pointing this out.
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