Does your bar card have the numbers “007” on it?
MSNBC reports from BusinessWeek the details of the seamy underbelly of spyware company Direct Revenue. According to various press reports (and charges from NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer), Direct Revenue develops products (which it innocently refers to as “adware”) that stealthily install programs on your computer that serve up pop-up ads. A lot of pop-up ads. In 2004, Direct Revenue may have had more than 20 million computers under its spell, generating revenue of $39 million. Here’s the company’s response to Spitzer’s claims.
Around this time, the company was allegedly feeling the heat from users and regulators. What to do under these circumstances? Call the lawyers! Change the boilerplate!
… Direct Revenue management in early 2004 procured from its lawyers a modified user agreement that would supposedly be shown to PC owners. Within the densely written seven-page document was a declaration that Direct Revenue “could remove, disable, or render inoperative other adware programs resident on your computer, which, in turn, may…have other adverse impacts on your computer.”
Abram [Direct Revenue CEO] presented the new agreement to his troops with an impudence befitting the Dark Arts crew. “It’s a lawyer-approved license to kill,” the CEO said in a February, 2004, e-mail.
Sounds like a client to die for.
If you’ve never had such “software” installed on one of your computers, consider yourself lucky. It is beyond obnoxious. We had one particularly onerous spyware install a few years ago come from a link in an AOL instant message a certain younger member of the family clicked on. It took a phone call (to a number I located from a domain registration) and an “I am a lawyer and I know state regulators” comment to get the uninstall program emailed to me. How many consumers can do this, let alone understand the multiple-page EULA?
And for the parents of teen users of MySpace, there’s another spyware title out there called Zango that may be infecting your home computer as we speak…