Spitzer goes after pop-up ad company


RIP Brian
Feb 22, 2001

Supreme Court order sought to put the brakes on pop-up advert installations

Most Internet users have experienced the frustration and inconvenience of covert and difficult to remove programs like VX2 which can track consumers' Web activity and deliver infuriating and distracting pop-up ads. Coming to the rescue is Elliot Spitzer, the attorney general for New York and a name well known for his actions against Internet offenders.

The latest company in Spitzer's sights is Direct Revenue, accused of secretly installing spyware and sending ads through spyware already installed on personal computers, Associated Press reports. Spitzer has asked the state Supreme Court to stop Direct Revenue from allegedly installing millions of pop-up ad programs that he said also monitor the Internet activity of users. The attorney general accuses the company in a civil suit under state business laws against deceptive business practices and false advertising.

"These applications are deceptive and unfair to consumers, bad for businesses that rely on efficient networks to do their jobs, and bad for online retailers that need consumers to trust and enjoy their online experience," Spitzer told AP.

This is not the first time that Spitzer has taken legal action against companies he has accused of installing spyware and adware software that can be downloaded onto personal computers without the computer user's knowledge after they are attracted to Web sites.

Spitzer claims Direct Revenue or its distributors offered free games, browsers or software without ever advising consumers that the spyware was integral to the downloads. 21 Web sites that included Direct Revenue downloads called VX2, Aurora and OfferOptimizer were identified by Spitzer staffers.

Spitzer said the company exacerbated the situation by making the spyware at best difficult to find and remove, with some pop-ups simply reinstalling themselves.

Despite an approach for an immediate comment on the issue, a Direct Revenue spokesman was unable to do so.

Associated Press recalls in its report that in October last year, the former chief executive of Los Angeles-based Intermix Media Inc. agreed to pay $750 000 in penalties after Spitzer accused the company of secretly installing adware and spyware on millions of home computers (see previous InfoPowa report). Spitzer accused the former executive, Brad Greenspan, of directing employees to bundle adware with other free programs and to make the software difficult to remove.

Spitzer said Intermix also agreed to pay $7.5 million in penalties over three years and stop distributing adware programs. Intermix ran Web sites featuring quizzes, games and jokes that it packaged for advertisers.

Spitzer's lawsuit filed in Manhattan also names Direct Revenue's former CEO, Josh Abram. Spitzer said Abram told a distributor in an e-mail that "we have a very stealthy version of our adware product which we're happy to give u ... Don't worry. If we do a deal a build together - these will not be caught."