Investors Supporting Spyware
Benjamin Edelman - Spyware Research, Legislation, and Suits

Major investment firms help support the operations of large US-based spyware companies. This page gives a summary of such companies and the investment firms supporting them. See listing criteria.

 

Related Projects

180solutions & Affiliate Commissions

Advertisers Using WhenU

WhenU Violates Own Privacy Policy

Documentation of Gator Advertisements and Targeting

"Spyware": Research, Testing, Legislation, Suits

Other Research by Ben Edelman

Company (products)

Investor, investment amount, date
(with links to SEC disclosures, investors' other investments)

Controversial product characteristics / my research / references

180solutions (Zango, n-Case)

$40 million - Spectrum Equity Investors SEC disclosures - March 2004
Other investments: Cellular One, Loews Cineplex
Interview quote: SEI "considers 180solutions a 'good actor'"

purportedly yielded a 25% ownership stake

company shut down with no payments to equity investors - April 2009

installing through security holes

installing through misleading bundles

installing through misleading offers on kids sites

installing through misleading pop-up ads

installing after users specifically refuse consent

claiming affiliate commissions

covering web sites with competitors' sites

advertiser list - partial

associated intermediaries (ad networks)

luring installations with copyrighted material and with material widely available elsewhere for free

Claria / Gator (GAIN)

$58+ million - investment dates unknown

installing through misleading ads at kids sites

installing through bundles with games

confusing installations with lengthy, poorly-presented, one-sided licenses

covering web sites with ads for competitors

making false claims about business practices

failing to provide a working uninstaller & instructions

advertisers - historic

Direct Revenue (BetterInternet, OfferOptimizer, many aliases)

$20 million - Insight Venture Partners SEC disclosures - April 2004
Other investments: Hitwise, Kanoodle

$6.7 million - Technology Investment Capital Corp SEC disclosures - August 2004
Interview re Direct Revenue practices

investor correspondence re Direct Revenue practices & complaints

installing through security holes

installing through misleading pop-up ads

deleting competitors from users' disks

covering web sites with competitors' sites

Newsweek article: use of many aliases, claiming affiliate commissions

advertiser list - partial

invoking affiliate links to claim commissions improperly

internal discussions & litigation documents

eXact Advertising (BargainBuddy, BullsEye)

$15 million - Technology Investment Capital Corp SEC disclosures - November 2004

installing through security holes

installing through misleading pop-up ads

claiming affiliate commissions

covering web sites with competitors' sites

advertiser list

invoking affiliate links to claim commissions improperly

Vendare Group unknown amount - Insight Venture Partners - November 2004

owns New.net, which installs through exploits and in misleading bundles

owns eMarketMakers, which directly funds 180solutions and eXact Advertising, and indirectly funds Direct Revenue

also owns jackpot.com and uproar.com, which SiteAdvisor reports send 99+ and 149+ emails per week to users who sign up on the respective sites

Hotbar

$3 million - DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Telekom, Lockheed Martin, Bertelsmann, Technorov - November 1999

$11 million - Deutsche Banc, C.E. Unterberg, Towbin Private Equity Partners - February 2001

$3.5 million - April 2001

installations at sites targeting kids

license agreements not affirmatively shown to users

installation confirmation screen without a button or option to cancel

intrusive advertising not specifically disclosed in prior on-screen text

placing ads into other vendors' spyware (installed without consent)

claiming affiliate commissions on users' type-in requests for merchants' sites

Webhancer

$13 million - Skypoint Capital, Vimac, Jefferson Partners - June 2000

additional rounds of funding - reportedly a total of $25 million

installations through security holes

installations through misleading bundles

tracking the specific web pages users visit

These investments total more than $179 million.

Links labeled access SEC information about the specified investment firms. Although some investment firms share similar names, I believe the links point to disclosures from the firms investing in the specified companies. Where available, I also provide information about selected well-known investments by these firms.

 

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Criteria

The table above lists software companies meeting two criteria:

1) I consider their products spyware, due to tracking and/or collection of sensitive information (often, lists of web sites users visit) either without any notice and consent at all, or without meaningful, clear notice yielding informed consent; and

2) They have received major financial investments.

Send suggestions for addition.

 

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Disclosures

My interest in spyware originally arose in part from a prior consulting engagement in which I served as an expert to parties adverse to Claria in litigation. See Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Company, LLC, et al. v. the Gator Corporation. More recently, I have served as an expert or consultant to other parties adverse to spyware companies in litigation or contemplated litigation.

This page is my own work - created on my own, without approval by any client, without payment from any client.


Last Updated: April 22, 2009 - Sign up for notification of major updates and related work.