When strange ads appear on Apple.com, without Apple knowing

It appears that some Internet service providers may work with companies that attempt to insert ads directly over Web pages, without the Web page owner being aware.

Rather taxing on the eyes, no? Zach Henkel

Perhaps your laptop, like mine, fights strange intrusions every day.

Some ads attempt to outwit pop-up blockers, as if it's a bizarre episode of "Survivor."

Yet it seems that some companies might be attempting even more irritating ways of not only attracting your attention, but detracting from the tone of Web site you're looking at.

Would you, for example, want to see a banner ad from H&R Block besmirching the pristine pages of Apple.com?

This is allegedly what happened to computer science Ph.D. student Zack Henkel. As Ars Technica reports, Zenkel was bathing in the specs of a Mac Mini on Apple.com when strange things began to occur.

Henkel describes on his own blog that he was suddenly faced with "a bright neon green banner advertisement proclaiming: 'File For Free Online, H&R Block.' I quickly deduced that either Apple had entered in to the worst cross-promotional deal ever, or my computer was infected with some type of malware. Unfortunately, I would soon discover there was a third possibility, something much worse."

Investigating further (and computer science Ph.D.s have considerable powers of investigation), Henkel concludes that CMA Communications, his parents' Internet service provider, may have been working in tandem with a company called R66T, to inject ads onto sites, without these sites' owners being aware at all.

He wrote: "You might not be surprised to know that CMA Communications won't confirm or deny that they are injecting advertisements into their customer's web traffic. You also could probably guess that there aren't any regulatory agencies that care either and that a complaint to the Better Business Bureau is not an effective remedy to the situation."

Ars Technica also discovered that Robert Silvie, another random Web user, had encountered a very similar issue, with strange and uncomfortable ads appearing on Bing and other sites. He was also using a computer whose ISP was CMA Communications.

I have contacted CMA Communications to see what might have popped up in their heads. Meanwhile, the company has suddenly updated its Terms Of Service -- yes, just a few hours after Henkel offered his story up to Reddit.

The update clarifies its relationship with R66T, stating that R66T will use a "digital layer which enables aggregated, curated, and created multimedia content and digital information presented in many digital formats."

What might be the purpose? Well, "inserting Information that is informational, promotional, entertaining, location-based, and generates advertising and sponsorship revenue for R66T and CMA."

Personally, I am always moved by information that is informational. However, I feel sure that when Apple is apprised of Henkel's information, it might not be amused. Neither might its lawyers.

Moreover, if you're H&R Block, do you feel proud that your ads are invading sites in this rather taxing way?

Or, ultimately, should this sort of thing be, well, blocked?

 

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