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Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Complaint targets Bellevue firm 180solutions

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — A nonprofit technology group asked the Federal Trade Commission on Monday to stop Bellevue software developer 180solutions from allowing "deceptive and unfair" methods in distributing products that generate online pop-up ads.

Although the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) acknowledged that 180solutions has responded to its complaints over the past two years, the group said the company has made only minor improvements.

"While they were willing to root out individual cases as we brought them to their attention, we were getting new complaints about new bad installations at an almost equal rate," said David McGuire, a CDT spokesman. "It seems their business model is just flawed."

The company claims its products are used by more than 20 million people, many of whom get them on their computers when they download free games and other software.

Ads generated by 180solutions' advertising products — Zango Search Assistant and Seekmo Search Assistant, among them — are triggered by sites users visit and keywords for which they search.

Many anti-spyware vendors flag 180solutions products as "adware," complaining that users aren't always made aware of installations though the company asserts that user consent is required. The CDT said 180solutions isn't aggressive enough about policing rogue distribution partners.

In a statement, 180solutions said it shares CDT's "vision of protecting the rights and privacy of consumers on the Internet" and hopes to continue a dialogue that already has led to "voluntarily improvements to address every reasonable concern that the CDT has made us aware of."

In recent months, 180solutions has announced changes that it says will help reduce unauthorized attempts by its distribution partners to install the company's products. The company also has dropped some distributors and filed lawsuits against some.

But the CDT told the FTC that 180solutions has "remained brazenly reckless in its efforts to get its software on users' computers."

The CDT, a Washington, D.C.-based civil-liberties group that has increasingly focused its attention on spyware and adware, seeks injunctions and penalties through the FTC.

FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell said the agency will review the complaint.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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