FTC Thinking of Exposing Adware Advertisers

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is thinking of shaming advertisers who user adware to push their products to users,

The FTC would publicly announce and publish the name of a company that advertises using adware that installs itself surreptitiously on consumer PCs or by using spyware, Leibowitz said. He would recommend publicly shaming advertisers to the other FTC commissioners if the adware problem doesn’t decrease, he said.

This sounds like a great idea to me, one that should have probably been started a long time ago, let all the consumers who are buying these products know exactly who is funding all of these programs and popups. Without these advertisers, these programs would not exist, as they would have to actually create some worthwhile software to sell to make money, they could no longer leech it from someone else’s website.

“There are well-intentioned advertisers out there that do not understand where their ads are appearing,” Hughes said. “It is easy to shame those advertisers, but that does not solve the problem.”

The deeper issue, Hughes said, is the way online advertising is handled. Many companies let a third party take care of their advertising and that company may delegate even further, involving many people and companies before an ad gets placed.

This does not matter one bit, if you are going to advertise yourself or your product, then you should want to know where the ad’s are appearing, the merchant is ultimately responsible for their own brand.

Among those who have exposed advertisers is blogger Ben Edelman, a Harvard doctoral student and spyware expert.

AOL has a policy not to advertise using adware. To maintain that policy, the company has to keep close tabs on those companies that handle its advertising, Polonetsky said.

“If you simply rely on a policy that you announce or simply rely on a promise from your partner, you invariably will be burned,” he said. “In today’s networked world you have to do due diligence to ensure your brand does not show up in an offensive location.” Source: News.com

Exactly. Wayne Porter from Revenews.com states,

For a long time myself and many other anti-spyware colleagues have been “shaming” the companies who engage in dubious distribution practices with their ads. But I think it is a good idea. Consumers are slowly but surely catching on and they aren’t happy. As I pointed out at the Summit in San Francisco last year- where are the fan sites lining up to defend these companies? They are, as far as I can see, non-existant. Contrast that with say iPOD owners who advocate their fandom openly and with fervor.

Let’s get to the heart of the problem. Sleazy companies are there to take advantage of DEMAND. If there were no demand they could not exist. Many companies know, or their agencies and brokers know how this so-called sleaze advertising is going on. Cut to the heart of the problem. Put the spotlight on the companies and individuals that fund this activity and let the cards fall where they may. Flowers cannot grow without fertile soil.

A Scarlet Letter is a good first step (I suggest a J for Jerks), but I still feel some up tempo lawsuits from the FTC and private citizens will send an even more clear message that this activity can and will no longer be tolerated. The issue is becoming less grey and more black and white and that’s coming from a guy who specializes in greynets. Could the Crucible be coming?

I have a few other suggestions, but a big red J would work for me too.