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FTC Bars Popup Backdoor Ads 348

zanderredux was one of several readers to note that the FTC has banned backdoor popups. This is the result of the D Squared case that we've heard a bit about in the past. The case also restricted them from sending IM ads as well.
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FTC Bars Popup Backdoor Ads

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  • Banned? (Score:4, Funny)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:24AM (#9929740) Homepage Journal
    This is really going to negatively affect my sex life. Will the FTC please get out of my bedroom, and keep their laws off my body while they're at it?
  • Hmmph. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by irokitt ( 663593 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (ruai-setirdnamihcra)> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:24AM (#9929741)
    So, will this be as ineffective as the CAN-SPAM act?
  • Messenger (Score:5, Informative)

    by Klar ( 522420 ) * <curchin AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:25AM (#9929751) Homepage Journal
    I used to get a ton of these. There was an article [] on TechTv about this: To turn off the messenger service in XP:
    1. Click on the Start button and open the control panel.
    2. Open the Performance and Maintenance control panel and go to Administrative Tools.
    3. Now double-click on Services, then scroll to Messenger.
    4. Double-click Messenger and click Stop to stop the service.
    5. Change the startup type to Disable (see an example []).
    • Re:Messenger (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ianoo ( 711633 )
      Or just download XP Service Pack 2, released yesterday, which will do this for you.
      • Re:Messenger (Score:5, Insightful)

        by KevinKnSC ( 744603 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:31AM (#9929840)
        Or, even better, put a damn firewall between your (Windows) computer and the Internet.
        • by Ianoo ( 711633 )
          Or just download XP Service Pack 2, released yesterday, which will do this for you ;)

          (BTW, I'm no Microsoft fanboy. However, I do think SP2 is a positive step forward for platform with regards to security).
          • I agree, SP2 seems like a step in the right direction. Given the huge number of MS security problems, though, I still don't think it's responsible to connect a Windows computer directly to the Internet.
      • Re:Messenger (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bhtooefr ( 649901 )
        His five-step procedure takes little time and zero bandwidth. XP SP2 requires you to:

        1. Find a link to it ( is one, IIRC)
        2. Download it
        3. Install it
        4. Reboot
        5. Curse because something broke, or it hosed your system
        6. Undo the damage (ranging from uninstalling SP2, to reinstalling Windows XP and all applications, and possibly recreating documents)
    • Re:Messenger (Score:3, Interesting)

      by value_added ( 719364 )
      I don't mean to sound critical, but I cringe every time I see a post like this. If someone doesn't know how to start/stop services on their Windows machine, maybe they should take time out and learn the basics of their operating system instead of watching tv? Investing in a copy of something like Windows for Dummies wouldn't hurt, either.

      IIRC, the recommended setting is 'manual' and not 'disabled' as Norton AV depends on the messenger service to issue its popup warnings. Either way, you may want to cons
      • Most people view their computers with the same regard they have for their refridgerators and microwaves. You turn it on and you press the buttons. Not only should they not have to think about it, it would never even occur to the average person to do so.

        OS's should ship set to auto-update, and people smart enough to not like that can turn it off.
  • by Jace of Fuse! ( 72042 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:25AM (#9929752) Homepage
    This would be a victory if it were legitimate businesses that used such tactics, but it tends to be the questionable individuals who use this the most, so it really won't have much impact, I'm afraid.

    It gets even worse when you consider the fact that US law has little effect on operations from other countries. So...
    • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @01:34PM (#9931413)
      This would be a victory if ...

      It's not a victory for technology, nor for freedom.

      What we have here is an network facility that was implemented badly (ie. without default access controls), and instead of the manufacturers getting their wrists slapped by the user community for inept design, the courts are brought in and it's turned into yet another thing for the state to regulate.

      It happens to be an MS problem in this case, but the issue is of much wider concern. You really don't want the state brought in when the problem is just a symptom arising from a technical fault. If you do, pretty soon the nanny state is tucking you up in bed every night ... in a straightjacket.
  • by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:25AM (#9929754) Journal
    Well I guess they can't always do bad. Though this won't mean a hoot for international companies who do not reside in the US (or US extradition country) it will at least help stem (for now) this countries pop-up advertisers.
    Go FTC (i feel sick now)
  • Popups are dead... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ianoo ( 711633 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:25AM (#9929763) Journal

    Every major browser now blocks the web variety (including IE, thanks to XP SP2). Microsoft also finally decided disabling Messenger and adding a firewall to their operating system was a good idea. Pity it took them so long to realise this.

    And now, just for good measure, they're illegal too.

    I say, good riddance.
    • by gid13 ( 620803 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:33AM (#9929865)
      Pfft... I'm not going to get excited until Netcraft confirms it.
    • by Clinoti ( 696723 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:37AM (#9929938)
      Good point, but there is only a matter of time or a matter of a new platform release before someone else devises another medium to push their product in an "In your face method".

      Spam started out, how many years ago on Usenet(?) and despite the millions companies spend making software to block, and the millions of man hours it takes up to script them out and off our networks, that the chance of making a few hundred still shunts our efforts since these guys won't stop sending.

      It'll just take time. But like the television commercial of today they'll be ranging far into the future.

      We need to start stopping these guys at the gates earlier.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:26AM (#9929769)
    I was one of the team leaders on the Windows NT project, in fact my team was in charge of the Messenger service.

    Nothing like watching an entire department power cycle their machine because they received

    "An error has occured at 0x8000000C. Please reboot your system."
    • by StuckInSyrup ( 745480 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @12:41PM (#9930693)
      Yes, I have to agree, it was fun.
      In school, we did some statistics stuff in excell, and the lesson was boring like hell. A guy in front of me played Doom 2 in a window and still kept on with the statistics. So I decided to make some fun of my own. I wrote something like:

      "System message: Out of memory, please close the application."

      The guy looked around a little stressed and closed Doom 2. After a while I have sent another message:


      This time the guy looked so scared, I couldn't hold the laugh.
      Yeah, the messenger was fun. I will take a minute of silence for him.
    • I have a .bat file that does a 'net send * J00 got 0wn3d'. When I go to LAN parties, I run it at random times when I'm bored.

      Funny watching 30 people suddenly lose mouse focus in their FPS games.

      Funnier still if you set your computer name to someone doing poorly in the game.
  • Yea.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_mad_poster ( 640772 ) <> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:26AM (#9929773) Homepage Journal

    Ads were "an annoyance you have to deal with in a free society," lawyer Anthony J. Dain is quoted as saying.

    Bearing in mind that advertising something on the TV or radio and crawling into someone's house through an open window and pinning a flyer on the fridge are not the same thing...

    • Re:Yea.. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lavaface ( 685630 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @12:34PM (#9930617) Homepage
      I would argue that your computer screen is more like a window to the world. If you don't like what you see outside, pull the drapes. I don't mean to defend ads because I hate them. I will grant you that Messenger popup ads are a personal invasion. But then, there are enough tools, Firefox, AdBlock, Macintosh that keep me from dealing with them.
  • by CarrionBird ( 589738 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:27AM (#9929784) Journal
    We just need to ban marketers themselves.
    • I just noticed the certain level of irony created by combining that comment with my sig, that is meant to take advantage of a marketers silly pyramid scheme.

      Only a marketer would think giving away ipods is a profitable business idea.

      I just hope I get one before the pyramid collapses and the company folds.
  • Uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by thebra ( 707939 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:27AM (#9929785) Homepage Journal
    My computer is broadcasting an IP address [], but without ads how will I be able to stop this?
  • by NiceGuyUK ( 801305 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:27AM (#9929787)
    You insensitive clods! We don't have an FTC....

    But seriously, legislation in the US isn't going to stop the worldwide problem of popups and spam. What's needed is better *technical* solutions (like not having loopholes in IM clients for people like D Squared to exploit in the first place.
  • by CommanderData ( 782739 ) * <kevinhi AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:27AM (#9929789)
    Although marketers regard pop-ups as one of the most effective ways of advertising online, many surfers find them hugely annoying.

    Hmmm, what's the word I'm thinking of... Oh yeah... DUH! What I cannot believe is that marketing people think that popups are effective advertising! The only way they have to measure effectiveness is by click-throughs. Of course, many of these pop-up ads are graphically designed to be so misleading (looking like a window within a window, or a dialog box) that the general public will click the ad accidentally while trying to close it. All these accidental clicks apparently add up to a "successful advertising campaign" in the eyes of a marketing bobblehead.

    Now, these guys using the windows messenger service can pop up a window that IS a dialog/messagebox, no matter what browser you use. Doesn't even matter if the browser is running, as long as you're connected to the internet (and running Windows). I'm glad that they're getting slapped.

    On a related note, I wonder if Microsoft considered turning off the windows messenger service by default for SP2? Not sure what kinds of apps that would break, but it seems like it would be benefical to the majority of home users.
    • >Although marketers regard pop-ups as one of the most effective ways of advertising online, many surfers find them hugely annoying.

      many people find that shoving a rather large stick with nails in it shoved up the bum of said marketers a very effective way of advertising their dislike of popups. although 99 out of a 100 marketers disagree, I condone this practice.

      now where's me nails and hammer...
    • Marketers realize that these pop-ups (unders/behinds/invisible/spyware/etc) are effective because the amount of money they are shelling out is less then the money they are taking in - hence they are making a profit - and as long as there is a profit (and the internet is one of the cheapest methods to advertise) then they are correct in their assessment.
      Now does this mean what they are doing is morally correct? Well that is best left to a philosophy course.
      • Yes, I agree that is the main problem. If nobody actually bought any of their junk eventually they'd give up. Now if only someone could come up with a way to prevent the popup senders/spammers from getting stupid people to their websites...

        The person who can make spam and popups unprofitable will become rich himself!
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:51AM (#9930127) Homepage
      On a related note, I wonder if Microsoft considered turning off the windows messenger service by default for SP2? Not sure what kinds of apps that would break, but it seems like it would be benefical to the majority of home users.

      I believe it's off by default in SP1, but I'm not sure. Disabling the service causes no problems. The only reason it was enabled by default is that it can be a useful tool for network admins (sending out things like "The mail server will be rebooted in 1 minute"), and Microsoft wasn't at all concerned about the security issues of the service. It's been typical of Microsoft to open all ports and enable any possible form of communication, access, or remote control- just in case you need them, in order to avoid all situations where a person might get frustrated that their own computer won't let them do something.

  • by OriginalSpaceMan ( 695146 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:27AM (#9929799)
    I've always found it ammusing when you see laws and rules for the Internet based on geographical location. The state of Iowa says that spam is illegal or China won't let you visit pages that bash China for example. We need a more permanant solution, and a common Internet law kind of thing.

    I don't know, maybe that's a bad idea too.
    • by ViolentGreen ( 704134 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @01:23PM (#9931282)
      We need a more permanant solution, and a common Internet law kind of thing.

      Well this all sounds well and good it is pretty impractical. There's no way that every country in the world is going to agree on anything, much less a law. Even if a lot of countries do agree on some kind of internet law, a lot of countries can't or won't enforce the laws.
  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:28AM (#9929802)
    Free speech doesn't allow you to run protection rackets, so why this? It's the same thing, if you think about it: sending popups with a promise to stop if you're paid. The only differences are in degree and scale.

    Not that this is going to do anything to prevent people from sending backdoor popups; nothing ever does. However, it does allow people to drop the hammer on those who continue this practice.
  • Some thoughts (Score:5, Informative)

    by Benanov ( 583592 ) <brian.kemp@membe ... minus physicist> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:28AM (#9929808) Journal
    FTA: "Lawyers for the pair said that they were not trying to extort consumers by bombarding them with ads and argued they only intended to send one a day to computer users."

    A few things:
    1. Someone can't code...
    2. The article has some misquotes: They use Messenger Service and MSN Messenger as if they were the same thing. This looks to be using the Messenger Service to send ads.
    3. GRC.COM's Shoot the Messenger is your friend (small assembly program that tells the service to shut itself down and disable it)
    4. When you use a backdoor like that, how do you control that one ad is sent to one machine? Wait. You don't. If they had graduated from college, they might have known that...
    :P --Ben
  • by StacyWebb ( 780561 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:28AM (#9929809) Homepage
    "claiming it could send pop-ups to as many as 135,000 internet addresses each hour." Actually D squared = 250,000
  • annoying pop-ups (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JosKarith ( 757063 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:29AM (#9929810)
    Ads were "an annoyance you have to deal with in a free society," lawyer Anthony J. Dain is quoted as saying."
    Just as removal of your kneecaps with a cold chisel is an annoyance you're going to have to deal with shyster.
    I hate pop-ups. As far as I'm concerned unless I _specifically_ open up something I don't want it buzzing me. Pop-ups are YOUR code running on MY computer without my authorisation. Under different circumstances that is a good way towards describing a worm.
    • by Snodgrass ( 446409 )
      Ads were "an annoyance you have to deal with in a free society," lawyer Anthony J. Dain is quoted as saying."

      Ick. That's the problem right there. Ads are an annoyance you have to deal with if you want something free. I really can't complain too much about ads on TV because that's where they get their money to put the shows on. Just living in a free society, however, should not automatically require you to provide an audience to advertisers.

  • worthless (Score:4, Funny)

    by xsupergr0verx ( 758121 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:29AM (#9929814)
    How am I going to know if I won a 3 free day trip to Hawaii for being the 82,711,365th visitor?

    Not to mention X-10 softcore.
  • Unfair! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mateito ( 746185 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:29AM (#9929818) Homepage
    I bought my last back door from a pop-up add, and I have to say that its a little ripper.. swinging exit for the minature snaushzer and everything.

    What I need now is a match to hang at the front of the house. So I'm just waiting for a decent front-door to popup...

  • Just because you lay down laws againsts certain behaviors doesn't mean the people will obey the said laws. 419 scams, phishing are all illegal in most countries, but that has never stopped any of the scammers...
    • ...or rapists, drug dealers, or pedophiles. Laws don't stop crimes; they simply provide negative consequences for individucals that commit criminal acts. It's why we have cops and jails.

      However, once you outlaw a certain activity, few legitimate organizations that rely on protection under the law are likely to engage in that activity. A legitimate advertiser is less likely to sponsor back-door pop-ups if there's a chance for criminal charges, let alone conviction. By reducing the market for pop-up ad p
  • Creating a law like this is just as effective as putting a sign on your backyard gate saying beware of the dog. It just scares the innocent people away but people will still be breaking laws. The internet is way too large for piracy, spam, kiddy porn to be ended. Of course in no way do I want a big brother situation but it's just something i have observed.
  • by HighOrbit ( 631451 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:37AM (#9929934)
    This is a fake victory for the FTC. First, the company (D Squared aka guilty slimeballs) who were doing this merely promissed not to do it again. Well, its a moot point anyway because Microsoft is closing the port/turrning off the service that allowed the ads in the first place. So they won't be able to send the ads anymore regardless of this "settlement". The guilty slimeballs do not have to pay any fines. So the message here is that despite the best efforts (? - not really) of the FTC, D Squared victimized hundreds of thousands of consumers and got away with absolutley no penalty and no admission of guilt. A real victory would have punished D Squared to the point of bankruptcy so as to deter future scum bags from exhotionate "business models"
  • by d474 ( 695126 )
    Now if we could just get spammers to obey the law...that would be progress.
  • by SomeGuyFromCA ( 197979 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:43AM (#9930018) Journal
    The only reason advertisers didn't hire someone to follow you around with a bullhorn was the expense. Then the internet was invented, and along with it, the pop-up ad...
    • I disagree with the guy and bullhorn being too expensive. Unless you count the medical bill for removing the bullhorn from his ass.

      The real reason that never caught on was the probability of physical assault.
  • by kahei ( 466208 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:43AM (#9930022) Homepage

    Requesting clarification of /. memes...

    1 -- It is impossible to stop spam because US laws have no effect on other countries!!

    2 -- US patent and copyright laws will stifle all humankind, because they are forced on or become de-facto standards in other countries!!

    Please resolve contradiction and continue posting activity.

    Thank you.

    • That's pretty easy. First a few assumptions:

      a) The US is one of the biggest markets, if not the biggest market worldwide
      b) Most of the stuff advertised with spam is "shady": porn, 419scams, viagra. Done by mostly "fly by night" companies.
      c) Most of the stuff relating to patents and copyrights is done by normal, upstanding companies (RIAA and MPAA and their ilk notwithstanding but bear with me: they still have a pretty good image with the common man).

      So, as soon as there are laws against it, the shady peop
    • by tsg ( 262138 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @12:26PM (#9930523)
      Your bafflement is entirely because you attribute both these opinions with one entity when, in fact, there are a great number of people here who don't always hold the same views.

      Slashdot has no opinion. The readers of Slashdot have many opinions. Simply because you read them both in the same place does not mean everyone believes them both.

      If however, you can find someone who does believe both, you should probably address your comments to them.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The fix is to replace your all-or-nothing viewpoint with a 1-99% split.

      1 -- It is impossible to stop spam because US laws have no effect on SOME countries!!

      2 -- US patent and copyright laws will stifle ALMOST all humankind, because they are forced on or become de-facto standards in MOST other countries!!

      And to complete the picture let's add that you don't want to move to those outlaw countries because life there sucks.
    • It's really not much of a contradiction. Imagine there's exactly one little shithole of a third-world country that refuses to adopt any U.S. laws. Then everyone there can spam us to oblivion, but the only way to escape U.S. patents is to live in that shithole country. And even if you did, you'd only have access to what the shithole country could produce internally, which would be mud and spam. :)
  • TV next...? (Score:5, Funny)

    by d474 ( 695126 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:48AM (#9930081)
    Now if they could just get rid of these 30 second pop-up ads that appear on my TV 4 or 5 at a time. Like, I'll be watching a movie, it'll get to a really good part, and then BAM!, 6 pop-ads about feminine products, male enhancement pills, etc.

    The worst part is they seem to get more agressive towards the end of the movie. Once I saw like 15 pop-up ads before the cliff hanger ending last scene. When is the FTC going to outlaw this madness!?
    • Re:TV next...? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by t_allardyce ( 48447 )
      Actually thats a good point, why is skipping adverts on TV 'not to be allowed' while ad skipping on the net is fine? Frankly i say fuck em both, when its my screen in my house, im afraid i have the last say about what goes on it - anyway, wtf are they gonna do about it? break down my door and demand i watch the adverts?
  • A funny thing... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@AAAtpno ... inus threevowels> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:56AM (#9930173) Homepage
    What always amazed me is the number of people who got these popups. Normal users, sure, that's understable. But I'd have friends that work in the tech dept getting these things, and complaining to ME about them.

    I was even flamed a few times, on various internet forums, because I told people to, "Install a god damned firewall" to block these things. Not because of my tone, but because that obviously wouldn't work.

    There are reasons why people use these tactics. There are enough idiots in the world that they work.
  • by ScytheBlade1 ( 772156 ) <`scytheblade1' `at' `'> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:57AM (#9930181) Homepage Journal
    I am very well likely re-stating the obvious here, but so incredible many people think that they're getting web browser popups it's sick.

    "According to the FTC, the pop-ups sent by D Squared could appear even when a user was not actively web browsing."

    No crap? All that does in the article is confuse the user. At one point in time, because the box is labeled "Messenger", the MSN messenger [] site said that they were "looking into claims of users using the Messenger Sevice for advertisments." It may still be on there, but I can't find it.

    Am I the only one who's annoyed by people's ignorance?
  • Annoyance? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by johnny_sas ( 785125 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @12:03PM (#9930237)
    "Ads were "an annoyance you have to deal with in a free society," lawyer Anthony J. Dain is quoted as saying."

    Yeah, and so is my foot in your face, buddy.

  • Well, there's your precedent for regulating other technology, like say P2P.
  • by hattig ( 47930 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @12:34PM (#9930616) Journal
    Ads were "an annoyance you have to deal with in a free society," lawyer Anthony J. Dain is quoted as saying.


    Ads are an annoyance that you have to deal with in order to receive something else funded by those ads for free or cheaper than it would otherwise cost.

    In this case, the pop-up ads were not subsidising anything else for the people that got them. They just appeared unwanted and unexpected. You expect ads on the TV, on the radio, on websites. In return you get free TV, free radio, free websites. What is the consumer gaining from these popup adverts.

    Hell, even junk mail probably subsided the postal service, allowing stamps to be made a little cheaper.

    The same theory should apply to spam. The recipient is not benefitting from the spam in any way. The spammers aren't subsidising their internet connection. It goes from Win-Win (free service for the consumer and products being presented to people for the company) to Win-Lose (products being presented to people, but nothing in return except a waste of time).
  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @02:00PM (#9931779) Homepage
    After all this time, I can't believe that the gummint hasn't figured that going after the PopUp merchants is a mugs game.

    Go after the viagra retailers, fine them ten times what it would cost to print an ad, leave it to the local jurisdiction to collect, and they'll be gone in a day.

    Destroy the market. Don't waste time and energy on the people trying to make a buck from it. Destroy the market...
  • FTC has no teeth (Score:3, Insightful)

    by richmaine ( 128733 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @02:03PM (#9931810)
    As usual, in spite of the headline implying that the FTC took decisive action, this does basically nothing. Look at what was actually agreed to. The perpetrators agree that "We didn't do anything wrong and we promise not to again, either".

    This kind of things doesn't discourage the practice; exactly the opposite in that it shows there is no penalty for it.

    As others have noticed, the practice is much more discouraged by the fact that so many people are now closing that loophole. But the FTC action achieved nothing.
  • Amazed and Confused? (Score:3, Informative)

    by SetiAlphaOne ( 247934 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @03:07PM (#9932588)
    There seems to be some misunderstanding in this thread.

    Please note that we are talking about the messenger service running under Windows, not the Windows Messenger IM program or web browser popup windows.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears