180solutions: Scary Smart Individuals
The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has stepped up their efforts to expose the illegal and deceptive practices of companies who have been hiding behind descriptions like “search marketing” or “targeted advertising”. Today, the CDT presented the Federal Trade Commission(FTC) with over 91 pages of evidence against 180solutions, who claims to be “a leading provider of Internet search marketing solutions.” Another 40 pages of evidence shows deceptive practices of 180solutions and CJB.net working together to defraud users. In the complaint filed today, the CDT requested “Investigation, Injunction and other Relief” against 180solutions and its affiliate CJB.net for the violation of section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
Documents also show a pattern of defiance by 180solutions to past complaints. The company has been quick to place blame of illegitimate behavior on rogue affiliates. The CDT has laid out a clear picture of how 180solutions supported tricks to force users to download their programs and even show how they’ve taken advantage of security flaws in Windows to install their code.
180solutions has no business model without the ability to have it’s data collection programs running on a users machine. If you haven’t heard of 180solutions, you might have heard of some of their other names like Zango, Seekmo, or MetricsDirect. According to the company, they accomplish this by providing “free access to a large catalog of entertaining and informative content”. Another words, they offer “free” music, videos and games to your kids in return for the ability to harvest data from your machine. Disclosure of their data collection programs is typically done in new variations of what we’ve always called, “the small print”.
The scary part is, 180solutions isn’t a group of hackers in a former communist country but their techniques are the same. The company has corporate offices less than 5 miles from the main Microsoft campus. Their headquarters are so expansive, they use Segways to get around. They have satellite offices in New York City and Montreal. Inc. They have over 200 employees and are actively hiring more. Their job posting is for “scary smart individuals, who are also really cool”.