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Cingular, Others Fined For Using Adware 109

Posted by kdawson
from the about-time dept.
amigoro writes "Cingular, Priceline, and Travelocity have been fined for using adware by the New York Attorney General. The companies will each pay $30K to $35K as penalties and investigatory costs. More importantly, the companies agreed to a series of restrictions and best practices that, while they make eminent sense to consumers, will be loathsome to businesses accustomed to having their way with our computers."
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Cingular, Others Fined For Using Adware

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  • by sqlrob (173498) on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:29PM (#17808740)
    If it was more than 30-35K, this is only a cost of doing business.
    • by poopdeville (841677) on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:33PM (#17808776)
      Yes, but they agreed to restrictions limiting the kinds of adware they can peddle. If they violate them, they will be violating an injunction and can face very steep penalties.
      • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:36PM (#17808798)
        Dont worry, We'll absorb their mistakes.

        Thats what sheeple are for.
    • by garcia (6573) on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:58PM (#17808994) Homepage
      If it was more than 30-35K, this is only a cost of doing business.

      I'm 100% sure that Cingular/AT&T makes more than that in one minute selling the usage stats and personal information of their customers. Why the fuck isn't the AG going after them for that opt-out "experience"?
    • by User 956 (568564) on Monday January 29, 2007 @11:15PM (#17809126) Homepage
      Well, going by what they were charging this guy in Florida [heraldtribune.com], they made at least that much.
    • Well, Cingular top executives were sitting around in a restaurant one day, and one of them said, "How can we permanently lower our sales to computer professionals?" One of them said, "Maybe we can get ourselves on Slashdot for doing evil, mean, sneaky, and nasty things". The others said, "Great. That's it." And they all congratulated themselves for selling their souls to the devil, got drunk as skunks, and made lewd remarks to the waitress. Just at that moment there was the smell of burning sulfur in the ai
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Pig Hogger (10379)

        Well, Cingular top executives were sitting around in a restaurant one day, and one of them said, "How can we permanently lower our sales to computer professionals?"
        -- Who gives a shit about those? said the most junior executive. They're always bitching and moaning and they nitpick through our customer service contracts. It's a crowd we'd rather not have.

        -- Yeah, that's true. Let's ditch the computer pro market, they're geeks anyways!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:31PM (#17808760)
    ["Cingular, Priceline, and Travelocity have been fined for using adware by the New York Attorney General.]

    Silly people, they should have used adware by someone other than AG himself.
    • by Veinor (871770)
      However, in their defense, "Standard Oil, the Carnegie Steel Company, the East India Trading Company, have all used adware on a far broader scale..."
    • Perhaps, instead of

      Cingular, Priceline, and Travelocity have been fined for using adware by the New York Attorney General.

      what they really meant was

      Cingular, Priceline, and Travelocity have been fined by the New York Attorney General for using adware.

      No, that doesn't make sense either. A state AG can't fine anyone. He's a prosecutor, not a judge or jury. What could the true meaning of this be? Could it be that this is a settlement, agreed to by the AG and the three companies in question? Yes. Yes it

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:32PM (#17808772)
    Now if they could only go after this Col. Motumbwe who keeps emailing me about his bank...
  • by notoriousE (723905) on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:35PM (#17808796) Homepage
    "there is a problem with your registry, click here to get a NEW BLACKBERRY from Cingular!"
  • meanwhile.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:39PM (#17808826)
    .. A homeless man in N.Y.C was charged 400,000 per music download by the MAFIAA. He said he doesn't even own a computer.
  • 35K is not even a slap on the wrist. It's pocket change for Cingular, and this will only encourage them to do more nasty stuff like this since they can get away with nothing. How about a $350 million fine instead?
    • One hundred bellliiion dollars, Austin Powers!

    • by Joebert (946227)
      The 35K is to cover investigative costs, ect.

      That pales in comparison to the business they've just lost by getting caught with their pants down like this though.

      Exclusive contract for the iPhone ?
      I don't want an iPhone if I have to use a carrier that puts adware on my stuff.
      Is that why it's not going to allow 3rd party applications on it ?
      They don't want me finding the adware they've put on it ?

      This little blunder raises alot of questions.
      • by camperslo (704715)
        I don't want an iPhone if I have to use a carrier that puts adware on my stuff.

        Considering that most others also despise adware, I think it is fair to expect that Apple will put some additional pressure on Cingular to clean up their act. Apple can be demanding of those they do business with. Apple is more likely to have some effect than us lowly consumers.

        Apple has shown itself to be one of the more sensitive companies when it comes to anticipating and paying attention to what consumers like (and hate).
    • by Adambomb (118938) *
      Congressman: The AG is right! Adware is a horrible vice!
      Congressman 2: Adware killed my father and raped my mother!

      [Gasps]

      Congressman Frank: Gentlemen, I propose we send a message to tobacco companies everywhere by fining these companies infinity billion dollars!

      Congressman 3: That's the spirit, Frank! But I think a real number might be more effective. All in favor of fining these evil telecom giants $100 million, say "Aye"!
  • a company like cingular won't even care about 35k, hell they would drop that on a 60 second ad on tv. and those restrictions.. what a joke. they shouldn't be allowed to invade my pc with advertisments fullstop.
  • 30-35K is just a drop in the bucket for these companies. Unless that penalty is changed I believe a dangerous precedent has been established. Giving companies a one-time slap on the wrist for their first offense is useless.
    We need see a proliferation of these lawsuits against companies knowingly engaging in this type of advertising practice. Increase the damages to the millions of dollars and then watch the large corporates perk up their ears...

    Now only if the AG made a case against some spammers...
    • I agree.
      There should have been no settlement allowed.
      If i had put in a rootkit, i would have been jailed for 10 years.
      Would i be able to reach a "settlement" for hacking?

      Although i despise spammers, i wish to know how they cannot reach a settlement, while companies like these can?

      These should have been convicted for unlawful breaking into property, and the CEO/CTO sentenced to 10 years like other spammers.

      How come when corporates commit crimes like taking investors for a ride, spamming them, putting rootkit
    • For cingular^HATT i propose a real evil "fine" mandate that everybody that wants to break their contract (exclude those under 6 months) within the next 8 months gets a "free pass" (no cancellation fee) ATT is allowed to try to keep those customers but they can not do any B&S tricks
  • This is just one of many cases where the NY Attorney General is doing what the Federal Govt should be doing instead of taking away our rights. I would love to see a pro active US Attorney Gereral going after big business abusing consumers the way that has happened in NY. Oops I forgot he and his boss are from the party of the rich and selfish.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by The_Wilschon (782534)
      I love our dual and mutually exclusive stereotypes of the Republican party. First, its the dumb hicks out in the boonies (who, btw, generally don't have a whole lot of money, generally quite a bit less than people in the cities, and furthermore are often quite nice people), then its the rich and selfish (who, btw, usually don't get to be rich and selfish by living out in the boonies and being ignorant).

      I'm not a Republican (nor am I a Democrat, yay George Washington and the no-parties-at-all-would-be-des
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rednip (186217)

        but I still find /.'s collective opinion of the Republican party amusing.

        You don't have to go any father than talk radio or Fox news to see daily exercise of the over sized counter weight of republican slander of the Democratic party, hell, it's even a long standing talking point to mis-pronounce it.

        I find it amusing that whenever someone on this board 'stands up' for the Republican party, they always insist that they are, and forever have been independent, or Libertarian. I cannot recall one person on any discussion who claims to be an active loyal Republican. Anyone wit

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mr_matticus (928346)
        They're not mutually exclusive, they're simply non-continuous. Those two groups you described are two of the major groups in the Republican party. That's like saying black people and Jewish people are mutually exclusive stereotypes of the Democratic party.
      • by RadioTV (173312)
        First, its the dumb hicks out in the boonies (who, btw, generally don't have a whole lot of money, generally quite a bit less than people in the cities
        People who live in rural areas aren't any dumber (or smarter) than people who live in the cities. And while they usually don't make as much money as people who live in large cities, the cost of living is lower.

        I love our dual and mutually exclusive stereotypes of the Republican party
        The Republican party appeals to two groups of people. The first is (some) peo
      • The Republican Party's current strength is in an alliance between big corporate power and big "born again" power. That's where the stereotypes of "rich and selfish" and "dumb hicks out in the boonies" both get attached. While the stereotypes are crass, they do point to the two main pillars of party support. These two very-different groups are united mostly in their desire to attain control - something neither of them could succeed at on their own. They are also united in their desire to undermine science wh
      • by durdur (252098)
        It is a weird coalition of those who think conservatism means things like being anti gay/abortion/sex-ed/birth control, and those who think conservatism means letting rich selfish guys stay rich and selfish. It is weird, and not very logical, but this coalition has elected several presidents and quite a few congressmen.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        First, its the dumb hicks out in the boonies [...], then its the rich and selfish
        It's not mutually exclusive at all.

        You have the rich, soul-less business-men running the thing, who get their votes by pandering to the not-too-bright southerners, who are won over by (hypocritical) posturing on right-wing religious issues.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ffsnjb (238634)
      Oops I forgot he and his boss are from the party of the rich and selfish.

      You do know that Elliot Spitzer (Governor, prior AG) and Andrew Cuomo are Democrats, right?
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Democrat, Republican, same difference. They're both rich and selfish, right?
      • by Joebert (946227)
        Ah yes, the old Republican vs Democrat rope-a-dope, I know it well.
        • by ffsnjb (238634)
          Barking up the wrong tree, man. If I had my way, every single elected official in the federal and state governments in the US would be barred from ever holding public office again after their terms are finished. But I don't have that power. I hate Dems and Repubs just as equally. I was just trying to point out the inconsistency of the parent's post, which someone else pointed out, too.
      • by raehl (609729)
        You do know that Elliot Spitzer (Governor, prior AG) and Andrew Cuomo are Democrats, right?

        He meant the Beverly Hills entertainment ones, not the Texas oil ones.
      • So pardon me if from my external point of view, the party of the rich and selfish is BOTH Democrate and Republican. Same brand of right/centrist, only different flavoring on minor issues.
  • by ancientt (569920) <ancientt@yahoo.com> on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:56PM (#17808974) Homepage Journal
    While I agree with the approach of making the companies using invasive software change their approach, I'm dismayed that this is probably the solution most people think should be applied.

    The real fault is jointly that of the OS and consumer. Allowing software with unkown ramifications is painfully stupid. If your computer is taken over by adware because you habitually just click "Ok" instead of thinking makes you deserve some of what you get.

    I'm fine with penalizing companies that do bad things, but they're always going to be out there trying to find some way to shove their ad in your face. It's the same problem we see with spam, you can't stop the spammers, the only way to dramatically improve the situation is to change the behavior of the recipients.

    The bigger fault is comptuer operating systems that allow software to make significant changes to the functionality of the system in adverse ways without making it clear that this kind of change is coming.

    With my OS, I have to log in a root (and I'm reminded that it is a bad idea) every time in order to make those kind of changes. I appreciate the convenience of root/administrator but everything I need to do normally shouldn't and doesn't require that kind of access. That doesn't mean that my operating system is superior (although I believe it is better) it just means that the designers didn't expect me to need to trade convenience for safety. I seriously doubt users of Unix like systems have suffered from this.

    I know it isn't going to happen, but I would have thought this was the best possible response if Microsoft (blind assumption but educated guess) was fined $30 for each affected system and each consumer who did something negligent was fined the same.

    • by The Bungi (221687)
      So you're gonna switch 'em all to Linux, instead of telling them to click "NO" on that dialog?

      Or maybe running under a non-admin account?

      Or maybe locking down IE so that only "approved" plugins can run?

      Or... something?

      And when they all switch to Linux or OS X and they get a dialog, they'll always click "No". Correct?

    • So you got burgled? Well it isn't the burglar's fault. You should have more locks/thicker doors on your house.

      • This is more akin to, "So you got burgled? It's your own damn fault, you shouldn't have let some sketchy guy into your apartment in the middle of Harlem at 3 am."

        You can have a firewall, active anti-virus, even, a sudo type setup, but Alcatraz Won't keep things in if you open the door and say, "leave." When someone is in the habit of clicking through things, and in the case of the sudo type setup, typing in their password every time something asks for it, no security system will protect them, and the fact

        • by squallbsr (826163)
          I completely agree, the internet is completely like Harlem at 3 in the morning. Switching from windows to OSX, Linux, BSD, etc will only cut down on the automatically propagating viruses and trojans. There will still be problems with adware and spyware, even botnets, however I don't think botnets are going to be the biggest problem if everybody switched. This is because only the 'bad' websites would have the botnet downloads - then prompt for a password to install.

          Basically it becomes a stupid user tri
    • I call BS. There is no way that you know what every piece of software on your system does.
      • by JoshJ (1009085)
        It's certainly possible on a Free/Open Source platform. Granted, looking at the source code for every single application would be a humongous task on a typical GNU/Linux user's computer, but it's possible to do so on a smaller lightweight distro, or if you installed LinuxFromScratch.
        • by arkanes (521690)
          OP was right. You don't know, and you can't know. The more open your platform, the more you *can* know, but it's not even possible in theory, much less in practice - a complete Linux environment is 10s of millions of LOC and you couldn't reasonably audit all that even if thats all you did.

          I doubt that theres a single person who can realistically claim a comprehensive, in depth knowledge of all parts of the Linux kernel, much less the entire GNU userland, much less any of the dozens of programs that you'd n

          • by JoshJ (1009085)
            I'd go ahead and guess that Torvalds has a comprehensive, in depth knowledge of the Kernel, and Stallman probably used to have a comprehensive knowledge of the GNU userland (though I would be surprised if he still does enough coding to keep up with the changes to that).
            The fact is, though, that you "can" know it is enough- because that means you can look up/audit/reference any part that you end up needing to know about.
            And like I alluded to earlier, there's a difference between a full computer and somethi
            • by arkanes (521690)
              I'd go ahead and guess that Torvalds has a comprehensive, in depth knowledge of the Kernel

              I wouldn't, and I'm pretty sure he'd agree with me. Torvalds, and most of his lieutenants, probably have comprehensive overviews, and in depth knowledge of several subsystems and parts of the kernel, but I seriously doubt that any one of them will claim to be an expert on all parts. And RMS might have had a comprehensive knowledge of the userland 15 years ago, but I bet he doesn't now. And certainly neither of them h

    • While I agree with the approach of making the companies using invasive software change their approach, I'm dismayed that this is probably the solution most people think should be applied.
      Why? Companies can't advertise by painting graffiti across the side of my house, why shouldn't there be legal restrictions against them doing the same with my computer even if I do nothing to stop them?
    • by darkonc (47285)

      , I'm dismayed that this is probably the solution most people think should be applied.

      It's not the solution, but it's certainly a very useful action. I think that a lot of people here would agree with me.

      I will probably never complain about going after the people who do these sorts of things (although I my complain about the specifics of a sleazy attack, I will always say that somebody needs to go after them).

      -- and yes, there will always be spammers, but there really needs to be a two-pronged approach. One is to educate the user community to avoid the scams, and the other is to penali

    • There have been some good points in response to my original post that I think deserve some followup.

      First, thank you 'The Bungi' for articulating what seem to be some of the most common responses.

      So you're gonna switch 'em all to Linux, instead of telling them to click "NO" on that dialog?

      No, the solution isn't to make everyone switch to my favored OS. Yes, it is better for me but I don't assume it is better for everyone.

      Or maybe running under a non-admin account?
      Or maybe locking down IE so that only "ap

  • Two articles in row about cingular! Both positive for them and no one else.
  • by zogger (617870) on Monday January 29, 2007 @11:31PM (#17809270) Homepage Journal
    ...humans do. They need to stop fining "corporations" and instead determine which named human made the offending decision, the guy who finally issued the order to do such and such offending thing, then freeze that guy's salary and compensation for five years (or more, to make sure they don't just raise it quickly to cover the loss to his check) and make that human pay the fine out of his own wallet, exactly the same as when joe sixpack gets a fine.

    • by Joebert (946227)
      Doesn't that defeat the purpose of being part of a corporation ?
    • by Mr_Tulip (639140) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @01:59AM (#17810348) Homepage
      Very good point.

      I've always been of the opinion that equivalent fines and punishments should be imposed on corporations compared with persons.

      Instead of jail time, perhaps a 'cease trading' time, where the gross income of a company for a period of time is taken away by the state.

      Instead of the death penalty, a complete dissolution of the business, with all proceeds going to the state.

      Instead of an individual fine, the fine an individual would receive for the crime should be multiplied by the number of employees in the corporation.

      My $0.02 worth

      • by zogger (617870)
        yep, along those lines. How about...pondering, there's a ton of possibilites for some reform here.....after their third conviction for being jerks (the legal term there...), all the top management is canned (along with having to pay the fines out of their wallet, along with pokey time if it was that bad), and the company is turned over to the employees who then hold a secret ballot neutrally observed election to see who does what for management? Just selling it off is too immediate and would hurt the bulk o
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Raenex (947668)

        Very good point.

        But it seems you missed it. Humans make the bad decisions, not corporations. Those are the people who should be held responsible. Instead, what happens now is that only the corporation is punished, not the guy making decisions, except in rare cases. This has changed somewhat after Enron, but it still isn't the norm. If people were held personally responsible for their uncaring actions, they'd think twice before blindly following the corporate "make profit at all costs" culture.

        Wha

        • by Mr_Tulip (639140)
          You're right, I probably did miss the point. :)

          I don't think that punishing the individuals within a corporation is an answer though - simply because in the wonderfully flawed justice systems in the western world, the people who actually made the decisions would not be standing before the judge - except maybe to give evidence against the scapegoat who's going to take the blame.

          So why not punish the whole corporation? The threat of dissolution of the company - and the ruination of their career - would be

    • I agree. It's kind of like a firearm being put on trial for murder rather than the person wielding it. Guns (and corporations) are only tools and implements. Only *people* are accountable and culpable. If a person fucks up, s/he should get bitch-slapped.
    • Wont work, coprorations will just use white horses to do punishable decidions.

      since i dont know if white horse is right idiom for this i will explain:

      Company intentionally hires naive, power hungry or just plain stupid person and gives him major post somewhere ... even add him to board of directors. He wont have any reall power (so he wont fuck company up with his own bad decidions), instead he will be used to authorize questionable and dangerous deciditions that company wants to make (i.e. "friend" will hi
      • by Magada (741361)
        Erm. True. Not so true if you stick it to the real originators. Or just convict the white horse AND then charge the other directors with collusion or aiding and abetting or whatnot. Works just as fine.
    • Nope. Can't happen.

      Not in this country where the penalty for killing fish and crabs is higher than the penalty for killing a Human.

      http://spewingforth.blogspot.com/2005/03/of-fish-a nd-men-corporate-penalties.html [blogspot.com] To quote from the article:

      This summer, Motiva pleaded no contest to criminally negligent homicide and assault, only the second such prosecution in state history. The company was ordered to pay $46,000 in fines, then the maximum under state law, and $250,000 more to a victims fund.

      If a hum

    • by Pig Hogger (10379)

      ..humans do. They need to stop fining "corporations" and instead determine which named human made the offending decision, the guy who finally issued the order to do such and such offending thing, then freeze that guy's salary and compensation for five years (or more, to make sure they don't just raise it quickly to cover the loss to his check) and make that human pay the fine out of his own wallet, exactly the same as when joe sixpack gets a fine.

      This won't work. It goes against the veil of secrecy that

    • ...even if the sentence is only a fine, it needs to be a felony. Felonies carry obnoxious baggage which you seldom can escape, and for many "business professionals", having a felony on their record can preclude their ability to obtain professional licenses or cause them to lose the ones they have.

      But I do agree that penalties for this kind of bad behavior need to be focused on the individuals and the fines payable by them personally.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      They need to stop fining "corporations" and instead determine which named human made the offending decision,
      Which will lead to a whole system of low-paid, worthless, scapegoat employees.

      In a group, you don't usually have one person who is entirely responsible for a decision...

      Corporate fines should be much higher than they are now. Holding individuals responsible for doing what their boss told them to do, certainly won't improve the situation.
      • by zogger (617870)
        In your own theoretical you show where the problem is. Any lower level flunky who does something he is ordered to do is *under orders*. He didn't make the decision, his superior being made it for him. If the flunky thinks it is dodgy, he damn sure should keep records or if it looks *real* dodgy, get the orders in writing. And make firing people for insisting on important edicts being recorded a crime as well.

        No matter who is the front public facing person for some bogus action, the boss above him wo
        • by evilviper (135110)

          A corporation doesn't *do* anything, human beings do.
          You keep saying it, but that doesn't make it true.

          You can have some action, where each person did something minor, but the end result is something very bad...

          When a mob kills someone, who do you want to take the blame?
          • "who do I want to take the blame?" The named humans in the mob, as has been already proven when such things did occur in the past and when the cops nabbed anyone or ones. You don't fill out a warrant for "a mob". They arrest a person or persons, named humans. The humans may be in a group, the group may have a name, but they arrest humans.

            And yes, I'll keep saying it because it's true, a corporation doesn't do anything, people inside a corporate structure do things. Named human beings. If some crime comes ou
  • Now if we could just hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for their half of the spam in my inbox.
    • by darkonc (47285)
      Hopefully they're next on the list for prosecution. Problem is, I'm guessing that the trail from the drug manufacturers to the spammers are a bit better laundered.. It's going to take a little more work to track the flow, and prove who knew what about drug spam.
  • Badly worded summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ken_g6 (775014) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @12:18AM (#17809662) Homepage
    The summary makes it sound like these companies produced adware. Actually, it's almost the opposite. Cingular, Priceline, and Travelocity have been fined for buying advertising displayed through adware programs produced by others.
    • by darkonc (47285)
      It's a slim difference between buying adware and producing it. If companies like Cingular and Priceline weren't paying for that garbage, nobody would have any incentive to produce it. Those people don't produce adware as a hobby any more than the companies buy it on a lark. It was a very carefully considered decision that the market cost of using adware was considered less than the profit to be had from them.

      Cingular, Priceline, and Travelocity have been fined for buying advertising displayed through adware programs produced by others.

  • They all said I was crazy when I told them there was a gnome in my computer making it do things.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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