There was a time when you had to actually download and install a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networking ‘ad supported’ software to be hit with the likes of Top Moxie, eBates, etc.

Now you can also end up with Top Moxie through well meaning web sites as shown by this ReveNews article.

And GiveSmart.com (likely out of BETA now) isn’t the only site that is making use of Top Moxie software on their site.

Many affiliates who value good moral ethics over legalities and fudging the law are apparently also not too happy with this. And for good reason. They may stand to lose their own affiliate payments due to this type of thing.

I have always held firm that if you live by the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – NOT “Them that have the gold make the rules” — then you can sleep better at night because you have a clear conscience.

Apparently most of the sites that make use of this ‘technology’ will ‘offer’ it to users to ‘help the user’ by giving them a way to help their favorite causes while making purchases around the web in exchange for installing their software. While others say that the software seemed to magically appear on their computers just by visiting a website.

Here are some links to help folks make an intelligent decision on whether they want to have Top Moxie on their computers:

Top Moxie LoyaltyWare (Xblock.com)
Top Moxie (SpywareGuide)
Top Moxie (eTrust Spyware Encyclopedia)

AffiliateFair – Merchant and Adware Partnerships has a list that is appears to be very current. Here’s what they have to say on the page with the list:

Merchant and Adware Partnerships

Many affiliates frequently want to know if a merchant is “clean” or if a merchant allows “parasites” in their affiliate program. Affiliates are eager to have access to some type of list or system to provide them with this information. AFP receives frequent requests asking if Merchant X is partnered with parasiteware or adware. The importance of these types of relationships by a merchant varies greatly among affiliates in their decision making for establishing affiliate relationships with merchants.

For some affiliates it is the first factor they assess and is the determining factor if they will promote a merchant. Since this is an important issue to many affiliates in determining their partnership alliances, AFP developed this directory to assist affiliates in forming their business decisions. However, AFP will not be publishing any type of “clean” list of Merchants or “blacklist” of Merchants. There are a few reasons that AFP has chosen not to take this route. The first reason is there are already a few other sources available to affiliates along these lines and AFP sees no benefit in replicating or duplicating those sources. The second reason is the daunting task of keeping such lists up-to-date and accurate with the number of merchants, the growing number of adware applications and the frequency with which partnerships change.

For these reasons, AFP opted to provide affiliates with a reference list of the URL’s to the merchant directory of affiliates who use adware when such is available. AFP cautions affiliates to use this information judiciously and consider the guidelines below carefully.

I found it amazing to see the number of sites where Top Moxie or other ‘third party apps’ that many are referring to as ‘parasitic’ types of software appears in the Privacy Policies as either a ‘partner’ or ‘third party application’ where they are not responsible for the privacy policy of these third party apps.

Among the list of sites* as of today (March 16, 2006) on AffiliateFairPlay (AFP):

Merchant Lists

Arthritis Foundation (powered by Buyersport)
BuyIntoHope (powered by Buyersport)
BuyersPort
Care2 (powered by TopMoxie)
CashBackBuddy (ExactAdvertising)
CashSurfers
Ebates (powered by TopMoxie)
DonationTree (owned by CashSurfers)
GiantRewards (web site is frequently not accessible)
GiveSmart (powered by TopRebates)
GreasyPalm
GreaterGood.com
GrowHope (Main list of Buyersport Charity branded platform)
HelpUSA (powered by Buyersport)
iGive (powered by TopMoxie)
OurEnergyShopping (powered by TopRebates)
PointsPassport
RebateNation (powered by TopRebates)
SchoolCash (now SchoolPop)
SchoolPop (powered by TopMoxie)
ShopAtHomeSelect
ShopForNYSARC (powered by Buyersport)
ShopForTheTroops (powered by Buyersport)
SpecialOlympics (powered by Buyersport)
TopRebates (aka WebRebates. Powered by TopMoxie) Other TopRebates sites:
AmberAlert
IdealShopperRewards
SavingsWatch
ShopForTheLibrary
ShopForTheLibrary 2
ShopForTheLibrary 3
ShopForTheLibrary 4
ShopForTheLibrary 5
ShopForTheLibrary 6
ShopForTheLibrary 7
MegaCashBack
UPromise (powered by TopMoxie)
WebSearch

*I have not linked to any of these sites!

When I viewed that list, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Many of these are good cause type sites!

It was particularly sad to see that iGive.com is now using TopMoxie. I haven’t been to iGive.com since their first year of operation. I remember thinking it was such a great concept back in those early days when the purchases were done in a more traditional way through their site. I used it on occasion to make purchases in those days to help the WildLife Foundation. It’s hard to believe that the current company is the same company where I worked for a couple months in their Virginia based office before they belly-tucked and decided, all of a sudden to close down their VA based office — where all the employees (except for one person who’s job was not specific to that office) lost their job — the year they were preparing for their IPO.

I have worked on client computers where I asked the owner of the computer how a particular type of software noted above including Top Moxie and eBates, etc. had appeared on their computers and they had absolutely no idea. They said they had simply been using Internet Explorer to surf the web and that’s all.

I thought that Wayne Porter had some great words to speak regarding Top Moxie and others in respect to methods of distribution here at ReveNews:

Distribution is the absolute key to the current adware mess. Even companies with the best of intentions have gotten bitten, whether unknowingly or with absolute knowledge, that they are co-bundled with unsavory partners or partners that use security holes to install their software. I am hard pressed to find a shining example of a company that has a completely “clean” record. However, I expect that to change as adware companies who want to last long-term begin their clean up mess. This does not, however, excuse past transgressions, but it is a good start and rest assured anti-spyware companies are watching along with a bevy of goverment watchdogs.

Right you are Wayne!

EDIT: Ben Edelman has also written about Top Moxie and even has some video showing non-consensual installations of WebRebates (some linked from here:
http://www.benedelman.org/spyware/installations/.

Further in February Ben wrote an excellent article entitled Affiliate Hall of Shame with subsets including; How Affiliate Programs Fund Spyware, Cookie-Stuffing Targeting Major Affiliate Merchants, and much, much more in the Affiliate Hall of Shame article.

It’s all very sad when you think about it, because there are many Affiliates who work hard to do things right, and make sure they only take the payments that they are entitled to. Unfortunately, there are others who do not.

Thanks Ben!

sidenote: My comments under the Forumer ValueClick’r Starting Up… article can be read here.

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Comments on: "“Good Cause” Web sites installing Adware software?" (1)

  1. […] You remember 180Solutions (Spyware Warrior’s article 180solutions in 365 Days), right? Also see Ben Edelman’s site here (The effects of 180Solutions on Affiliate commissions and merchants) and here (Affiliate Hall of Shame) for even more details. Also see our piece on Zango and other companies’ affiliate dealings through ‘good cause’ sites here. More information can be found from May 26, 2006 posting on paperghost’s VitalSecurity.org site here (Botnet pushes Zango software) where paperghost discusses this and also brings up 180Solutions/Zango’s YapBrowser as well here and Suzi Turner’s Spyware Confidential posting at ZDNet blogs entitled What does 180solutions have in common with racism, comedy and the long tail?. […]

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