"Adware" companies say their businesses are predicated on user consent. (Claria: "… consumers who agree … "; 180: "permission-based … opt-in"). Notwithstanding, companies’ claims, there’s no doubt that this kind of advertising software is sometimes installed without consent. See the video I posted last year.
But what about those users who supposedly do consent to receive extra pop-ups? Why did they agree to receive extra advertising that so many other users seem to despise? My sense is that users often don’t understand what they’re getting — due to serious deficiencies in installation disclosures. In two new articles, I examine and analyze the installation procedures of Claria and 180, raising doubts as to whether users reasonably knew what would happen when they "accepted" these programs.
Can we say that a user "consents" to an installation if the installation occurred after a user was presented with a misleading advertisement that looked like a Windows dialog box? If that advertisement was embedded within a site substantially catering to children? If that advertisement offered a feature known to be duplicative with software the user already has? If "authorizing" the installation required only that the user click on an ad, then click "Yes" once? If the program’s license agreement was shown to the user only after the user pressed "Yes"? These are the facts of recent installations of Claria software from ads at games site Ezone.com.
Turning to 180: Can we say that a user consents to an installation of advertising-display software where that installation is prominently described as removing advertisements? Where the installation description uses euphemisms like "show … sponsor websites" but never explicitly states that the program will show advertisements or pop-ups? Where the installation procedure never shows or even references a license agreement? And where all this occurs at sites catering to children?
Lots of companies want to take advantage of users who may be a bit confused, a bit naive, or a bit too quick to click yes. But where users are recruited at sites catering to children, where ads look like Windows messages, or where installation requests resort to misleading euphemisms, I’m not inclined to say that consumers "consent" to the resulting ads and to the resulting transmission of personal information.