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Ad software maker sues distributors

180solutions launches legal attack against several distributors of its application, in an effort to revise its image.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read
An advertising-software maker that's long been in the crosshairs of anti-spyware groups is suing seven former distributors of its application in a continuing effort to clean up its image.

180solutions makes downloadable Internet software that delivers pop-up promotions to people as they perform Web searches; the application is often distributed by third parties. The Bellevue, Wash.-based company filed a lawsuit this week in Washington's King County Superior Court against seven distributors or individuals, charging that they had installed its software on PCs without notifying the owner, nor obtaining his or her consent, against the company's policy.

"When we discover a partner in violation of our code, we shut them down and, when necessary, take legal action to avert future bad behavior," 180solutions President Daniel Todd said in a statement.

The lawsuits are 180solutions' latest attempt to start fresh in the ad software, or adware business, which has a sullied history. In the past, some adware pushers have buried download disclosures in lengthy legalese; installed software surreptitiously through security loopholes; disguised their brands; or made it tough for consumers to uninstall the pop-up programs.

Now companies including 180solutions are seeking to distance themselves from such practices. In addition to this week's complaint, 180solutions sued two former distributors of its software last year--a case that was settled in the company's favor. And 180 has severed relationships with another 500 of its 8,000 distributors since early this year.

It also recently sent pop-up alerts to its PC users, notifying them that its software was installed. However, some consumer advocates believe the company still hasn't gone far enough in its notification efforts. To be thorough, critics believe, the company should also get people's consent to continue running the software.

To secretly install the software, called 180search Assistant, the defendants allegedly used "botnets," or large computer networks that manipulate security holes in the Windows operating system to download viruses or malware, according to the filing. One person, the botnet operator, typically controls the distribution of harmful software or spam on a network of infected PCs.

180solutions seeks monetary damages in an amount to be determined at trial.