Zango (180solutions) Settles for $3 Million US

If there’s anything that the file-sharing community shows little sympathy for, it’s adware companies. Kazaa and Morpheus certainly were more than willing to bundle adware into their software.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

For some, adware sounds like a great solution to getting revenue. This is why adware is big business even to this day. One company, though, found out that public scrutiny and companies designed to attack the product isn’t the only problem with a business model surrounding adware.

According to Wikipedia, 180solutions (as Zango was known at the time) started out as a pay-to-surf ad company in 1999. In 2002, it adopted an installation process of their ad software that didn’t require user’s consent (which isn’t legal in many countries around the world.) While making many questionable installations, the company didn’t fall into any legal fire. Whether or not this was known to the company, they nevertheless continued this practice unabated.

180solutions then merged with another company known as ‘Hotbar Inc.’ to form what is now known as ‘Zango’. Running an adware company was great, aside from being in the crosshairs of anti-adware firms, as well as being under scrutiny for their practices – but that’s not the point of an adware company, is it? Adware is about business and Zango experienced good business – great business in fact. It became a 50 million dollar company by 2004. As Aladdin once said, “You’re only in trouble if you get caught!”

As far as the company was concerned, there was no trouble. That was until now when the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) came knocking – Zango was in trouble. They were served with a lawsuit. The FTC brought Zango to court and brought the company down to a settlement for the damages caused.

According to the original complaint, Zango “made identifying, locating, and removing their adware extremely difficult for consumers by, in numerous instances, among other practices […] Listing the adware in the Windows Add/Remove utility under names, including “Uninstall 180search Assistant,” intended and/or likely to confuse the consumer […] Failing to disclose adequately that, in some versions of the adware, disabling the display of Respondents’ pop-up advertisements would not disable the adware from monitoring and generating logs of the Internet browsing activities of consumers using that machine nor disable Respondents’ collection of such information; Providing an uninstall tool that failed to uninstall the adware in whole or part; […] Reinstalling the adware files on the consumer’s computer with randomly generated names to avoid further detection and removal.”

According to the settlement agreement, “It is […] ordered that Respondents shall pay to the Federal Trade Commission the sum of three million dollars.”

Some may think that such a penalty isn’t enough for a multi-million dollar company – a company some would say made big business out of reducing the quality of consumers’ computing experience. Still, it is a welcome start to many who fight such software day in and day out.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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