Eric Goldman has a fascinating post, pointing out that the era of sneaky adware seems to be pretty much over
. For quite some time, one of the biggest annoyances online for many users were surreptitiously-installed client side adware programs that would pop up unwanted ads while you did other things. However, it appears that a combination of factors have pretty much wiped them out. Legal rulings found that the surreptitious installs (either with no notice or misleading notices) were fraud. Companies were sued, fined and went out of business. Security firms got better at catching and blocking these programs, and the few remaining firms in the space moved on to other projects (though, some are equally questionable). Either way, most folks probably didn't notice, because they either learned to avoid the sneaky adware or they were already well enough protected from it. Yet, as Goldman points out, pretty much everyone (with the possible exception of Zango) is no longer in the business of tricking people into installing ad-spewing software.
Of course, Goldman points out that no one has let the politicians in on this news yet, as many are still pushing various anti-spyware legislation that probably doesn't matter any more. He also points out that this doesn't mean questionable ad activity isn't still happening -- it's just moved on from sneakily installing an application on your harddrive. That's why Phorm (a former
client-side adware maker) is in so much hot water
these days. Its behavioral ad targeting solution may not be the same as the surreptitious client side ad spewing software -- but it's still surreptitiously watching your behavior and displaying ads based on it.