Verizon Grows Wary, Outlaws Spyware As Ad Targeting Tool
"Adware provides relevant ads to consumers when they search online for a product or service," the company said, noting that it has been using adware in its online ad campaigns to promote its DSL and Verizon Online product since late 2003. More recently, it began using adware applications to promote its "Freedom' bundles of telecommunications services.
Despite its effectiveness and relevance to consumers, Margo Hammar, Verizon's chief privacy officer, acknowledged that "in its current forms, adware has generated many consumer issues and become a source of irritation among Internet users, our customers, and prospective customers."
The company said it was adopting the new guidelines to ensure that consumers understand the components of Verizon's adware advertising efforts, and to prevent them from being confused with spyware applications. The new adware guidelines include:
* Clear and conspicuous notice
* Adware downloading processes that ensure informed consent from computer users before the software is downloaded
* Clear brand identification of the source of any pop-up ads
* Prominent and easy-to-follow instructions for removing a program.
Hammar said that Verizon would only consider working with adware firms that adhere to the new guidelines.
"Conversely, if they cannot, Verizon would not use that company's services in its marketing programs," the company said.
While the nature of spyware isn't always clear, Verizon distinguished it as an application that "automatically loads programs onto a computer, often without the user being aware, that are able to track a computer user's Web site visits, collect personal information, reset computer configurations, and are difficult to uninstall."