Warner Bros. Calls Off Deal With Adware Company

Warner Bros. has ended its relationship with controversial adware company Zango, the companies confirmed late last week.

Zango, formerly known as 180solutions, this spring started offering streams of Warner Bros. Webisodes to consumers who agreed to download Zango's software, which serves pop-up ads based on Web-surfing behavior.

Warner Bros. and Zango also teamed for games, with Warner Bros. placing ads for downloads of Zango games on a section of its Web site aimed at children; users who clicked on the games were directed to a site that invited them to download Zango's ad-serving software.

Warner Bros. said it ended the relationship because Zango had not provided a third-party certification that its business practices met Warner Bros. standards. "While we respect Zango's effort to change its business model, we also take our responsibility to children and parents very seriously. Unfortunately, despite the initial assurance we sought and received from Zango, they have been unable to provide the third party certification we require to continue the relationship," the company said Friday in a statement. A Zango spokesperson also said Friday that the deal between the companies had ended.

Late last year, Zango said it intended to seek certification from Truste, a nonprofit that maintains a whitelist of adware companies that follow its guidelines--which require full disclosure to consumers before installation, opt-in consent, and an easy uninstall mechanism. As of late last week, Truste had not given Zango its seal of approval.

Consumer groups have frequently criticized Zango, charging that the company's ad-serving software is often installed without consent. The Center for Democracy & Technology earlier this year filed a complaint against the company with the FTC, charging that it engages in "distribution practices that appear to be broadly unethical and in many cases, illegal."

Zango's stated policy requires users to opt-in to receive the software, and users who visit Zango.com are asked for their permission before any ad-serving software is installed. But the company also distributes via affiliates, many of whom have been accused of doing drive-by installations without first obtaining consumers' permission.

Zango maintains that it severs relationships with affiliates who sneak the software onto consumers' computers, but consumer advocates charge that the company doesn't do enough to police its affiliates.

By Friday, Warner Bros. content--video clips of the soap opera "Deception," and the animated show "Medical Island"--had been removed from Zango.com. The shows, which went live at the end of April, had previously been available to consumers who visited Zango.com and downloaded the company's ad-serving software.

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