Zango agrees to pay $3 million to settle FTC suit

Zango, formerly 180solutions, the infamous adware company known for its adware and trackware programs like ZangoSearch and 180SearchAssistant, has agreed to pay three million dollars to settle a suit brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that company’s software was installed to millions of computers around the world without end user knowledge and consent. The suit also charges that Zango was deliberately trying to implement specific functionality in its software that would complicate its removal.

According to FTC, Zango affiliates – third-party distributors of Zango adware, were using unfair and deceptive practices to push unsolicited software to user computers. Some of them installed Zango applications through drive-by downloads or by exploiting web browser vulnerabilities, while others offered specific advertising-supported software such as screensavers, file sharing programs and games without disclosing that this software is bundled with Zango, and downloading it installs adware. Zango affiliates were so successful that at the end of 2005 Zango applications were on more than 20 million of computers worldwide.

Fortunately, this is not for long. Zango must stop serving advertisements through any of its applications installed prior to January 1, 2006. This puts an end to annoying pop-ups and ads still received by millions of people without their explicit consent.

It should be noted that Keith Smith, Zango chief executive, did not fully agreed with all the charges, although he did accept some blame. He said that Zango affiliates must be held fully responsible for all the issues with Zango adware, not the company itself.

Early in our business, and as we’ve acknowledged, we relied too heavily on our affiliates to enforce our consumer notice and consent policies. Unfortunately, this allowed deceptive third parties to exploit our system to the detriment of consumers, our advertisers and our publishing partners. We deeply regret and apologize for the resulting negative impact.

However, reputable security experts don’t agree. Spyware researcher Ben Edelman is one of them. He says that Zango is still using deceptive practices to push its adware.

Nevertheless, the most important thing is that FTC is setting a precedent that all adware companies will have to keep in mind before starting to distribute their software differently from regular applications, i.e. without asking for user permission.

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