FTC Slaps Zango On The Wrist

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Zango Inc., the Web 2.0 incarnation of bubble-era adware and porno-popup company 180solutions, settled up with the Federal Trade Commission to the tune of $3 million (about 23 cents per install). The FTC charged that Zango used unfair and deceptive methods to download adware to users computers and then block them from removing it.

Zango’s most recent previous news appearance occurred in July, when angry users noted that a Warner Brothers children’s site displayed a Zango icon inviting kids to download games. The games came with adware that potentially would show adult content, depending on user surfing habits.

Blogger Chet Faliszek broke that story, which led to Warner Brothers severing ties with Zango. Faliszek urged readers to file complaints with the FTC, which, apparently, happened.

The FTC subsequently accused Zango of using third parties to install adware via programs like Zango Search Assistant, 180Search Assistant, Seekmo, and n-Case, that monitored consumers’ Internet use in order to serve up targeted popup advertising. The FTC says that adware was installed over 70 million times, displaying over 6.9 billion ads.

Zango distributors often offered free software, such as screensavers, p2p software, games, and utilities without disclosure that adware came with the software. Distributors also conducted “drive-by” downloads, exploiting vulnerabilities in Web browsers to install behavior-monitoring adware without the users knowledge.

If that weren’t enough (and at this point it seems $3 million is a little light), the FTC said Zango deliberately made it difficult to identify, locate, and remove the adware once it was installed.

The company did not label popups ads to show where they came from, gave files names resembling core systems software, provided uninstall tools that would not uninstall the adware, gave those bogus uninstall tools confusing labels, and installed code on consumers’ computers that secretly reinstalled the software if the user tried to remove it.

“Consumers’ computers belong to them, and they shouldn’t have to accept any content they don’t want,” said Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If consumers choose to receive pop-up ads, so be it. But it violates federal law to secretly install software that forces consumers to get pop-ups that disrupt their computer use.”

Zango executives shifted the blame to the company’s affiliates, who it seems won’t be participating in the check-writing.

“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,” said Keith Smith, CEO of Zango.

Zango stated that the current stipulations mandated by the FTC have been in practice since January 1, 2006. Security research Ben Edelman begs to differ, according to Wired.com, and VitalSecurity.org has screenshots and explanations of blue-screen madness inflicted by Zango.


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FTC Slaps Zango On The Wrist
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  • basilio muniz

    i have nephews who look at a lot of cartoon sites so my nephew installed zango but it is making my online searching horrible it keeps giving me information i dont want and it is impossible to remove from my computer. if there is any information on how to safely remove this hardware i greatly appreciate it, i feel like my computer is being kept hostage by zango these popups  are driving me crazy itis not alright for zango to force me to keep there hardware  and the uninstall button never works at all  thank you for your time. basilio muniz III

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