Over a year and a half ago, as NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was investigating various spyware/adware firms, he noted that he was thinking about going after the advertisers who advertised through adware, but it wasn't entirely clear what they had done that was illegal. It may have been a bad business decision, in that adware ads tend to piss off users a lot more than it's likely to make them happy customers. However, is it really illegal to advertise that way? We had thought that it was more of an attempt to scare various advertisers away from the adware providers -- which was actually accomplished much more successfully by suing the adware firms and having advertisers realize they might not want to do business with firms under investigation for sketchy practices. The FTC took a different approach, threatening to name and shame various advertisers who used adware. Overall, though, as many of the worst adware providers have been sued out of business, we figured the issue was done with. However, Spitzer's successor, Andrew Cuomo, apparently picked up where Spitzer left off, and has convinced Priceline, Travelocity and Cingular to pay fines for advertising in adware. Now, it's hard to feel sympathy for companies that advertised that way (in fact, you might as well fine them for thinking it was a good idea in the first place), but no one has yet explained what it was that these advertisers did that was illegal. No doubt there are plenty of things that the adware firms did that broke certain laws in tricking people into installing their software -- but the advertisers had no say in that side of what was going on, so it's difficult to see what they actually did wrong here.
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