The internet is the quintessential free lunch: in exchange for free software and free information, we get free viruses and free spyware. It is a high price to pay for a bargain.
But now the price of internet freedom has begun to fall: under pressure from legislators, regulators, internet civil liberties groups and Eliot Spitzer, scourge of Wall Street, internet advertisers are beginning to realise they can no longer extract such a high price for free stuff. Some of the worst offenders of the “badware” world – companies that litter our computers with annoying pop-up adverts and secret profiling software – have begun to clean up their act.
Litigation has a lot to do with that. Just last month, Mr Spitzer, New York attorney-general, sued Direct Revenue, one of the bad boys of internet advertising, producing voluminous evidence about the company and its department of the “dark arts” – part of what Mr Spitzer alleges was an elaborate and profitable enterprise aimed at insinuating advertising spyware on to the computers of millions of Americans, often without their knowledge or consent.Read Full Story