Group: FTC should stop rogue adware provider

A major provider of Internet advertising software is responsible for surreptitiously installing its software on potentially millions of computers nationwide, including federal systems, without users’ consent, a nonprofit privacy advocacy group announced today.

“There’s no way it can’t affect federal users,” said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). The company’s software slows down users’ systems and interferes with other software programs, hurting productivity, he said.

Many federal CIOs and chief security officers are talking about ways to close their systems to adware to stop the barrage of pop-up ads, said David McGuire, CDT’s director of communications.

For users with older computers and slower Internet connections -- of which there are many in the federal government -- “the effect can be so profound as to make the Web almost unusable,” McGuire said.

The adware company, 180solutions, has allegedly used unfair and deceptive trade practices and has disregarded repeated warnings to change its ways, Schwartz said.

CDT filed two complaints today with the Federal Trade Commission, one against 180solutions’ pattern of practice and another against its relationship with an affiliate,

CDT wants the FTC to investigate and penalize the company, Schwartz said. It marks the first time CDT has asked the government to get financial redress for users, Schwartz said.

CDT tracked the company for two years before filing its complaints, McGuire said.

To bolster CDT's position, Schwartz and McGuire referred to a December 2005 study sponsored by America Online and the National Cybersecurity Alliance, which found that 61 percent of people surveyed knew they had spyware and adware on their computers.

AOL and NCSA scanned the computers of survey respondents and found that overall, 11 percent of respondents had adware from 180solutions on their machines.

"180solutions and its affiliates have caused immeasurable harm, not just to individual Internet users, but to the Internet itself," Schwartz said in a statement. "This company's brazen distribution practices saddle innocent Internet users with intrusive software that they neither want nor need and contribute to a general sense of wariness and distrust that threatens to stifle the growth of the medium. We are urging the FTC to use all the tools at its disposal to bring these practices to a halt, since 180solutions has repeatedly failed to adequately police its own distribution network."

180solutions has not reviewed the CDT material yet, said Sean Sundwall, the company’s director of corporate communications.

“We have made voluntarily improvements to address every reasonable concern that the CDT has made us aware of,” Sundwall said in a statement.


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