Edelman's investigations into spyware and online advertising have led to litigation and the regulation of deceptive and criminal business practices. It's the kind of work that prompts suspicion among the companies he criticizes.
Edelman: a pesky mix of technical and legal know-how
Photo by Mark Ostow
It's an argument others have made about security vendors, but Edelman doesn't buy it. "This is like saying firemen benefit when there are fires so they must want buildings to burn down," Edelman says. "I just don't think that's true."
Edelman, who already has a law degree from Harvard, is finishing a Ph.D. in economics there. "I could teach advertising. I could teach ethics. I could teach advertising ethics," he muses.
The gadfly was drafted into service by flummoxed family and friends whose PCs had succumbed to spyware. "There was something funny afoot that deserved further study," he says. Edelman credits his success to the fact that analyzing spyware suits his unusual combination of technical, legal, and economic skills.
And that expertise may guarantee more work for Edelman because, despite his efforts, the Internet remains infested with unethical marketers who, as Edelman puts it, "still install without consent, who still track what Web sites you visit, who still send just abusive numbers of ads."