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Adware: good for some, bad for others

Apr 28, 20062 mins
Data CenterMalware

In the category of “One man’s pleasure is another man’s pain,” I recently read an article in the April 2006 issue of Inc. magazine that advocates “comparison-shopping software.”  You and I know it as adware.  The article paints tools like WhenU and Dealio in a positive light, able to deliver context-sensitive pop-up ads when someone is shopping online.

Having read this magazine for several months, I’m guessing the target reader is the owner/operator of a small to medium-sized business that is looking for ways to compete against much larger competitors.  Online advertising – especially the kind that delivers a real-time, context-specific message — would seem to be a real plus.  Of course, these readers might not know that adware and pop-ups are the scourge of network security professionals, who do everything they can to prevent adware use on our computers.

I took the opportunity to vent my displeasure at Inc. by sending a letter to the editor, pointing out that adware is a risky proposition to a marketer.  Not only is the ad likely to be blocked, but the company whose product is being advertised risks the wrath of angry administrators who blame that company for the invasion of privacy.

A recent survey says that 37% of all online shopping takes place while people are at work.  I think that figure is actually low.  Nevertheless, we do use our work computers to do a bit of shopping from time to time. 

Would you want (or allow) your user community to install adware tools on their office PC – or home PC, for that matter – to invite pop-up comparison ads?  I certainly wouldn’t, and it disturbs me to see an otherwise great resource such as Inc. magazine advocating this tactic to anxious (and possibly naïve)  marketers.