Authors Note: Following the initial publication of this report on March 20, 2006,
several of the companies identified as having relationships with adware distributor
180solutions contacted the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) to offer more
detailed information about their advertising policies and current practices. This version
of the report reflects that updated information. For further information, or to obtain
earlier versions of the report contact Alissa Cooper (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Following the Money:
How Advertising Dollars Encourage Nuisance and Harmful Adware
and What Can be Done to Reverse the Trend
A Report by the Center for Democracy and Technology
May 2 2006 (Update)
Unwanted advertising software or "adware" has evolved from an annoyance into a serious
threat to the future of Internet communication. Every day, thousands of Internet users are
duped into downloading adware programs they neither want nor need. Once installed, the
programs bog down computers’ normal functions, deluging users with pop-up
advertisements, creating privacy and security risks, and generally diminishing the quality of
the online experience. Some users simply give up on the Internet altogether after their
computers are rendered useless by the installation of dozens of unwanted programs.
One of the most troubling aspects of this phenomenon is that the companies fueling it are
some of the largest, best-known companies in the world. In the following pages, the Center
for Democracy & Technology (CDT) details how advertising dollars from major,
legitimate companies are fueling the spread of nuisance and harmful adware1 and how
those companies can help to combat the online scourge by adopting and enforcing good
advertising placement policies.
Adware's 'Dirty Little Secret'
Speaking at the Anti-Spyware Coalition Public Workshop on February 9, 2006, FTC
Commissioner Jonathan Leibowitz said that the “dirty little secret” about nuisance and
harmful adware is that large, legitimate companies fuel the problem -- knowingly or not