A subsidiary of America Online has settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it illegally bundled adware with free security software.
Advertising.com offered SpyBlast to consumers for free, but users who downloaded the software also wound up with a program that tracked their web browsing and sent them pop-up ads, according to the FTC.
The agency alleged that Advertising.com did not adequately notify users that SpyBlast came with the adware. Consumers were not required to read the license terms for SpyBlast before installing the spyware – if they did, they might have seen a statement indicating that by accepting SpyBlast, they agreed to receiving marketing messages, according to the FTC.
Under the settlement, Advertising.com cannot tout the benefits or features of SpyBlast or any other security or privacy software that is bundled with adware unless it clearly discloses that the security software comes with adware.
The settlement also requires that the company comply with standard record-keeping and other provisions to allow the FTC to monitor compliance. The order does not apply to AOL, which acquired Advertising.com a year ago.