In the past week, search company Ask Jeeves has received a lot of attention for claims that it's been pushing spyware. The details are a lot less interesting. Ask has a toolbar, and some less-than-scrupulous company was installing that toolbar without really getting permission. Ask should have noticed this earlier, and cut off that affiliate, but overall, it doesn't seem like Ask Jeeves is a real problem here. The story might not be so simple, however, with Yahoo. One of the dirty secrets of the adware business is that it attracts a ton of well known advertisers. That's where so much of the money comes from. In fact, it appears that plenty of those advertising dollars are being funneled through Yahoo's Overture ad service. Following, Eliot Spitzer's decision to sue Intermix, there are rumors that he may be investigating the relationship with Yahoo, noting that 10% of Intermix's revenue appears to come from Yahoo. This is leading Yahoo and some analysts to start punching back by claiming that Yahoo really isn't all that involved with adware companies. This is a really odd defense. Basically, they admit that they are making money from surreptitiously installed programs, but since it's not that significant an amount, it's okay. Still, determining the significance is all relative. $20 million made from software installed without the user's knowledge still seems like $20 million too much.
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