Spyware Cheating Affiliate Merchants

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Researcher Ben Edelman cited a half-dozen examples of affiliate merchants being cheated by spyware, particularly by claiming commissions on organic traffic coming to those merchants.

Edelman said that while some spyware vendors are trying to clean up their image, the core designs of a couple of examples still behave as they always have: “They still track user behavior, still send browsing to their central servers, and still show pop-up ads — behaviors users rightly disfavor due to serious effects on privacy and productivity.”

His longtime object of derision, Zango, showed up in one example of claiming a commission on organic traffic. Here’s how a browsing session proceeded for him when navigating to Blockbuster:

On May 13, my automated testing system browsed Blockbuster. Observing the requested traffic to Blockbuster, Zango opened a popup sending traffic to Roundads.com. Roundads redirected to Performics and then back to Blockbuster.

To a typical user, this pop-up is easy to ignore — just a second copy of the Blockbuster site, which users had requested in the first place. But the pop-up has serious cost implications for Blockbuster: If the user signs up with Blockbuster, through either window, then Blockbuster concludes it should pay a $18 commission to Roundads via Performics.

That’s a sham: Were it not for Zango’s intervention, Blockbuster could have kept the entirety of the user’s subscription fee, without paying any commission at all.

Edelman’s other examples demonstrated how Blockbuster competitor Netflix also experiences such illicit claims for commissions. “Aside from reducing wasteful advertising spending, Netflix might also want to sever these relationships because the underlying spyware imposes serious costs on consumers,” Edelman said of the deal Netflix has in place for this otherwise organic traffic.

Spyware Cheating Affiliate Merchants
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