Last week, spyware researcher Ben Edelman released <a href="http://www.benedelman.org/news/052808-1.html">another batch of evidence</a> that shows the false "value proposition" of <a href="http://zango.com">Zango</a>'s business model. Zango, formerly known as 180Solutions, has had its software installed under shady circumstances and false pretenses, and it's been happening for years. They need to stop, now.

Dave Methvin, Contributor

June 8, 2008

2 Min Read

Last week, spyware researcher Ben Edelman released another batch of evidence that shows the false "value proposition" of Zango's business model. Zango, formerly known as 180Solutions, has had its software installed under shady circumstances and false pretenses, and it's been happening for years. They need to stop, now.Back in 2005 when annoying spyware was at its peak, I spent some long summer nights tracking down several nasty spyware infections that included 180Solutions. The company had many classic excuses for why the problems happened, but most revolved around the "you can't expect us to be responsible for our affiliates" line. The ability to blame the affiliates provided a perfect shield of plausible deniability.

Edelman's most recent look at Zango shows that some things have changed, but many things remain the same. First, there is the deception of the "you must install Zango to see this content" pitch. In many cases you don't have to install Zango. Then there is the question of whether Zango even has the right to distribute the content in the first place. In 2005, when affiliates were distributing movies and cracked software laced with spyware, Zango could blame the affiliates. This time the questionable content is on Zango's own site, so the blame stops with Zango, along with the buck.

If companies like Zango have behaved badly for so long, how can they still be around? Regulators haven't given punishments that make it clear this behavior is unacceptable. Take, for example, the settlement the Federal Trade Commission made with Direct Revenue. The company made tens of millions of dollars by installing pop-up adware and making it almost impossible to remove. FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz dissented from the Direct Revenue settlement, saying:

"The injunctive provisions, like those in Zango, Inc., f/k/a 180 Solutions, Inc., will serve as a model to adware companies in future. But the $1.5 million in monetary relief that the Commission obtained as part of the consent order is a disappointment because it apparently leaves DirectRevenue's owners lining their pockets with more than $20 million from a business model based on deceit."

It appears that companies like Zango are content to play a cat-and-mouse game with regulators, betting that whatever punishment may come will barely put a dent in all their ill-gotten profits. Sadly, they may be right.

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