Thundercloud and Eightball RANT - Cloudeight Internet LLC

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Zango Tango U
(The Dance You Don't Want To Do)

Have you noticed that the U.S. court system always seems to favor those with money lately? Money equals power, you know.

How many sports stars, movie stars, politicians, and other so-called "important" people get off with a slap on the wrist, when we, the average "Joes" of the world would end up sitting in prison, ruining our reputations, and our lives for doing the same things.

The Internet, as we've often said, is nothing if not a reflection of the real world. There is good and bad; there are bad scams and good deals. The worst in us and the best in us can be found on the Internet. Everything in the "real" world is mirrored in the cyberworld. And it is amplified by the press coverage anything bad on the 'Net seems to receive.

Because the Internet is a lot younger than the "real" world (oh, let's say a few hundred thousand years younger) anything bad or shameful that happens which also happens to be connected in any way to the Internet makes big news. Take "phishing", Web scams, pornography and con artists for example. Forms of all of these have been around in the real world since the dawn of mankind, but It seems the media loves it when these happen on the Internet. Those who don't use the Internet (and there are still a substantial percentage of people who don't) love to read or watch news about the "decadent" Internet. The media is happy to oblige, never missing a chance to attack. And when they do, it sends a message to those who are not sure about the Internet and those who have never had access to it. That message almost screams "stay away - it's bad for you". But, you can bet these same media people are using the Internet everyday in their jobs. What's good for me is bad for you? Is that what they're saying?

So, before we get into the gist of this "rant" just let me say, the Internet is an amazing and wonderful place where ideas and information flow freely. The Internet gives new meaning to the phrase: "The world at your fingertips". Just because companies like Zango/Hotbar exist on the Internet does not mean the Internet is a bad place and encourages bad companies. Just look around the real world and you'll find the same problems, the same questionable tactics being used by companies (can you spell INFOMERCIAL) and same filth you'll find on the Internet. It's just a little easy to come by on the Internet, is all.

Still, there are some disturbing things happening. Like, for instance, when the U.S. court system, on the basis of an idiotic decision give de facto approval of P.U.S.. Think of it as an endorsement. Of course, we understand it's not an endorsement, but just wait. You'll see the decision in favor of Zango by the courts being used as an endorsement and to lend a sense of respectability to Zango, something we feel is just plain wrong. Zango, if nothing else, panders software that ought not be targeted at young people. Now that the courts have, in essence, given this questionable company's products respectability, you can be sure that you're going to see more of this type of software appearing on the Internet - which is already teaming with such software. What a shame. We think it's a disgrace that our court system makes such irresponsible decisions that can and will be used by P.U.S. developers to encourage potential users to download and install their software and expose computers and users to all the risks and troubles associated with P.U.S. - not to mention the probability that youngsters will be exposed to pretty lewd stuff.

A few weeks back we wrote an article about a disturbing new partnership between Frick and Frack, err I mean Zango (180 Solutions) and Hotbar. You can read it here.

Recently, an individual, who also happens to be an attorney, filed a class-action lawsuit against Zango.

The case was filed by Naperville attorney Shawn Collins against Zango, in which he alleges that Zango puts spyware on computers without a user's consent.

Collins, who wanted this to be a class-action lawsuit, believes Zango's software trespasses upon and pollutes computers. Imagine his suit as sort of like a class-action lawsuit filed by an individual against a large industrial corporation who spews hazardous chemicals and other garbage into the water supply.

In its defense, Zango hired the Chicago firm of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, a high-profile tech law firm that counts Microsoft Corp. among its clients.

Collins didn't win this case and the suit was dismissed with prejudice. That means it cannot be pursued again in the future. Zango, is now dancing on the cyber-street, claiming a big victory. It concluded (somehow) that this court decision proved it is not a spyware provider.

Now, unleashed by the court, Zango is free to not only distribute its P.U.S. (that means, of course Potentially Unwanted Software) but "improve it", develop new P.U.S. and seek out millions of new victims, err I mean "users". They'll invest millions of dollars more than they ever have before in Web advertising. You see now, they're basically immune from further legal "harassment".

What's worse, much worse, is that Zango and its new partner "Hotbar" will use that court decision to persuade and encourage potential users to download their P.U.S.. Most people still believe the court system exists to protect the ordinary citizen, right? A great many people will be encouraged, shall we say, to install Zango/Hotbar on their computers. After all, a U.S. court has concluded there's nothing wrong with Zango - it's not spyware. It's safe for you and me. Well, that's what they said isn't it?

One of the attorneys for Zango, by the name of Mandell said: "We believe Zango goes to extra measures to get consent...There are many consumers that want this targeted advertising and want this content."

He's so wrong. What he says obfuscates the truth. But the court bought into it.

You can bet that Zango paid dearly for its high-powered defense team, and, therefore,  it paid a lot of money for this victory. Unfortunately this will inevitably become a victory for similar companies as well. And, it will, of course, encourage other companies, similarly eager to earn vast amounts of easy money, to produce similar software. And that will flood an Internet already saturated with such questionable software and make it even harder for the average person to avoid it.

Zango's high-priced defense will be worth every penny they paid because tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. If a there is a god of the Internet that god's name is Money -as you no doubt are learning by now. From this point on we're going to see the Zango Tango being performed (and quite legally I might add) across the more and more desktops around the world. Unwary consumers will no doubt be influenced by a new advertising blitz by Zango who will use this decision by one U.S. court and spin it as an endorsement of its methods and its application. In short, that means that more and more people are likely to install Zango on their computers. And that's just what Zango wants and that's just what the result of the court's decision will be.

So, why is Mandell wrong? First you have to think like a lawyer. You can win any argument if you start off with an illogical premise, because once the premise is accepted, anything goes. And you cannot win an argument with someone who argues from an illogical premise; you just can't do it.

In this case, Mandell's illogical premise is: "many consumers want this targeted advertising". Oh really, Mr. Mandell? Do you think people download Zango's "free" screen savers, games, porn and Hotbar's "free" smileys because they want all those really great ads, popups, popunders, buttons, banners, etc..? Anybody with a brain (except, apparently, some judge) knows that people download this kind of software because they want something "free". They sure don't download it for the ads. They are in love with the idea of the illusive "free lunch". If people really did what ads, why do companies bother with the blingo to lure consumers - the free movies, games, smileys, screen savers, and other applications? Why not just make an application whose sole purpose is to display ads? I really can't imagine anyone who understands computers wanting to download programs that display ads in all incarnations when those incarnations are all using YOUR personal computer's resources. And most often results in your computer running like a crippled (sorry, I meant "handicapped") overweight, warthog in a tar pit.

The judge, and therefore the court, bought into this illogical argument. The reason? Not many judges, juries, or lawyers really understand computers or the Internet. Lots of very intelligent people are not very intelligent when it comes to computers and the Internet.

There's another reason too:  There's not one definition of spyware with which everyone agrees. There never will be. Many spyware/adware and P.U.S. developers have made millions, even billions, by using individual, private, PCs as billboards. Now that they've got the money, they've got the power. And now, they've got the courts behind them. So when someone comes up with a reasonable definition of spyware, those who make it will object. And, if you're waiting around for a one-size-fits-all definition of spyware, you might as well be waiting for the sun to burn out. I can assure you that the sun will burn out first before any spyware developer ever agrees to any one single definition of spyware.

The court could not have possibly considered all the known issues with Zango - or it wouldn't have reached the bone-headed decision it did. And it couldn't have considered the potential computer problems caused when applications like these use up computer resources to display ads in various formats whenever the computer is online. They probably didn't consider any of this because the lawyers defending Zango, snuffed out any objections to P.U.S. by saying that people like these ads and download the software to just to see these ads. How smart is that? Very smart if you're defending a P.U.S. maker. It's the illogical premise that has been used to the great advantage of the P.U.S. makers and to the great disadvantage of the ordinary Joes like us. It seems our courts are getting good at this.

What about Zango?

Well the the problems with Zango, besides the obvious problems of resource issues and poor computer performance that dedicated adware applications can cause, there are things more disturbing. Take a look:

180solutions and the kidporn (YAP) browser

"... Type a URL into the address bar at the top—any URL, or anything at all, or nothing—and the browser sends you straight to an advert page. An advert page for hardcore child porn sites. You 'eard. Software downloaded from 180's servers promoting kidporn. Keepin' the internet free, there. ..." (Read the rest of this incredible article about Zango/180solutions here.)

Kids Thank Warner Brothers for the Ads and Porn

"...A page that is “Just for Kids”, shows pictures of the Flintstones, scooby-doo and other cartoons sure seems like it would be targeted towards kids. Outside of chat rooms, just for kids normally means just for kids… On Warner Brother’s Website, it has all of this and a little something more, something very much not just for kids..... ( You have to read the rest of this, it's truly unbelievable - but it's true. )

Yapbrowser: serves up Zango and...child porn?

"...Type a URL into the address bar at the top- any URL, or anything at all, or nothing - and the browser sends you straight to an advert page. An advert page for hardcore child porn sites. Whoops. Yapbrowser comes in two different flavours - Adult (complete with the Latin text left over from whatever template they used), and Regular. Regardless of which one you download, they both seem to (not) work equally badly. In fact, the "adult" version doesn't actually work at all, because the download link is bogus. And don't add in what you would imagine the download url to be - you'll be redirected to the UA porn site in the screenshot. Minus the blanked out images...." You will be shocked - but please do read this. It's amazing and will give you a good taste of what kind of company Zango is .)

Want Free Games? Have Some Porn Too

"...Scooby and Fred Flintstone aren't the only welcoming features on Warner Brothers' fun stuff webpage, which lets visitors know in large block Wonder Woman letters that it's "just for kids." Just above and to the right of the scrolling "V for Vendetta" sweepstakes (wait, isn't that movie rated R?), you'll see that the page is sponsored by Zango Games.

Zango is already making people angry elsewhere over their adware affiliates. The love child formed of adware and (alleged) child porn browser distributor 180 Solutions and Hotbar, Zango offers hundreds of free games through downloading the Zango Search Assistant. Clicking on the Zango Games icon in the top right corner of the Warner Brothers webpage leads the visitor to the download screen. ..." (Read this entire article.)

Lawsuit Against Zango Dismissed; Gloating Ensues

"...Zango is an adware firm; there is some evidence that the company's products tend more towards the "spyware" side of things. A class-action lawsuit against the entity (and on that subject) was dismissed yesterday. Zango issued a press release about it, and handled the matter in a not-exactly-polite way.

Techdirt reported on the matter. "The dismissal of a single lawsuit (and the details are missing as to why it was dismissed) doesn't necessarily justify the business model - and the fact that the company views some pretty serious, and very detailed, complaints from an awful lot of people as ‘background noise' should hopefully alert advertisers that this is not a company to work with," wrote Mike.

The "background noise" comment that he mentioned came from the none other than Zango's CEO. "Despite occasional distractions like this unfounded lawsuit and the background noise of a small group of fixated critics, I'm very proud of the fact that our desktop advertising business continues to grow and progress nicely," stated Keith Smith, the CEO in question...." (Read the rest of "Zango Gloating")

There's plenty more where those references came from: Just Google "Zango+Porn" or "Zango" or  "Zango + Spyware" or "Hotbar+Zango". You get the idea.

Now, just think, the court system has given Zango its blessings and a green light to continue to conduct business as usual.

You can bet that Zango will get worse too. More ads for Zango will spring up all over the Internet, more people will be exposed to it, more children will install it, because now Zango is not only going to use the court decision to its advantage, it will be greatly emboldened by it. As you've read, they're already gloating about it.

While we strongly disagree with the court's decision, we know that the solution to the P.U.S. problem won't from a court - they will continue to make sure that the rich and powerful are always protected. That's certainly been the trend lately.

And it won't come from legislation passed by any government.

The solution to spyware, adware, and P.U.S. is in educating computer users. Knowledge is power too. Perhaps the power that knowledge provides is greater than the power that money provides because it's easier for most people to gain knowledge than it is for them to become wealthy and powerful.

The more people become educated about companies like Zango which produce software applications that use other peoples' private property (personal computers) to generate enormous profits the more people will catch on that these programs ought not be installed.

The more people that understand that companies like Zango, rush software to market without much testing, some of it poorly and hastily programmed, and that such software will tend to cause problems like annoyingly slow startups, sluggish computer performance and possibly eventual computer failure; the more they will  stay away from it.

And if enough of us stay away from it there won't be any real money in it and the companies that make P.U.S. will have to turn to other ways, perhaps more legitimate ways, to make money. Maybe not. They might actually have to work for the money in that case and these types seem to be after the easy buck.

Consumer education and not governmental regulation is the key to slowing down the growth of spyware, adware and other unwanted software. As long as there is big money to be made, you can be sure that someone is going to make it.

Consumers need to learn who makes P.U.S. and more importantly, who the companies are that advertise with the companies that make it. Once the advertisers are exposed, consumers need to let these companies know that we're not very happy with the way their spending their advertising dollars; we're not very happy that they're helping spread P.U.S. on the Internet. Without the millions of dollars paid by advertisers to the P.U.S. developers, P.U.S. will cease to be enormously lucrative for those seeking the easy money. Then, and only then, will they stop turning the private computers of people all over the world into billboards and money-making robots. With spyware/adware/malware on the decline they'll be less ruined computers, less stolen personal information, less pornography within easy reach of youngsters, fewer dollars spent on computer repairs, and a lot more computers out there running like they should.

The courts, by indirectly encouraging the installation of parasitic software applications, have given adware/spyware/badware developers respectability. Basically, they can thumb their noses at consumers and anti-spyware advocates. In essence they've been exonerated by the court system, and we're all going to have to become even more vigilant. And, I don't know about you, but I'd rather spend more time enjoying the good things the Web has to offer and less time installing this program or that program to protect my computers and less time trying to figure out what this or that program may do to my computers and my personal privacy.

The court, apparently does not care about you or your crippled computer. The court does not care if your computer becomes a robotic billboard for some parasitic company. The court does not care if you have to fork out a hundred dollars to have your computer repaired because it finally gave up the ghost after being swallowed up by one adware/spyware application after another. The court favored the big money; they favored Zango. The court believes the argument that Zango put forth that all of you want to see  more ads and that's the real reason why you download Zango and other P.U.S..

So there you have it. Now you've now graduated from Zango Tango U. One easy class. You did well, so far. But there's lots more to do.

You've learned, too, just how much us average Joes matter to the court system. You've learned how companies like Zango now have the green light to produce more and more of this type of software and add more pollution to the already over-polluted Internet. But, it's OK, it's legal because you all want to see more ads. If they pollute our kids, ruin our computers, and make our computer experience miserable, it's OK - the judge says. Once again, we all lose, because money and corporate interests win.

So, don't wait for the courts to protect you, it's not going to happen. And don't wait for the government to protect you from spyware, adware and badware, they're not going to do it. Governments are becoming plutocracies - protecting the interests of the wealthy and powerful. And you, my friend, are not rich and powerful enough to deserve any protection.

Here's what you need to do: Find out who is advertising with Zango and other software like it. Then write these companies and tell them what you think. The only thing courts, governments, and businesses understand is - you guessed it - MONEY. You need to learn all you can and do all you can to slow down the spread of these types of applications. You can't let someone else do it. It isn't going to happen.

If YOU don't  care enough to do something about it, then kids everywhere are going to be exposed to more and more nasty stuff; you're going to have to wade through more and more pollution and the line between good and bad is going to become harder and harder to see. Take this as a fact: No government and no court cares about protecting you, your children or grandchildren, from adware or spyware. There's big money it it and that's the real issue. Your privacy, your safety, your children are irrelevant. Money is all that matters.

This is a serious issue that extends beyond the damage that adware and spyware present to your privacy and the problems it can and does cause for your computer. It is an issue that now includes exposing your children and grandchildren to pornography and other questionable content.

If we don't do what we can to slow down the growth of companies like Zango, and educate and alert advertisers about the kinds of things they're supporting with their dollars, then perhaps we all deserve what we get. Find out who is paying companies like Zango - the advertisers - and let them know how you feel about this. Tell them what you think about Zango and companies of their ilk,  If you don't,  they're gonna do The Zango Tango all over you.

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