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Hijacked affiliate sale

     
4:21 am on Jul 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I've read that sales can get hijacked. Does this mean that a buyer will sign up for the program themselves and buy the product and make the commission for themselves or can sales be stolen in another way where say another site has crawled yours and taps into your link somehow?
4:29 am on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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When webmasters refer to sales being "hijacked" they are referring to scumware. When a user of an infected pc clicks through your link, the software company will get credit for the sale rather than you if they are a partner with the merchant.
4:40 am on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Is there any way to protect yourself from this, or if its going to happen its going to happen.
4:47 am on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Look for affiliate promoting parasite free or scumware free programs. At least you know they aren't trying to be associated with that junk.
6:02 am on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Anyone have any solid numbers or estimates of the % of sales hijacked by scumware?
12:27 pm on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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No solid numbers but between gator and whenu alone they claim to have 73 million active desktops. The number of hijacked sales is surely staggering. Yet another reason why I tend to stay away from cookie based programs whenever possible...

[claria.com...]
[whenu.com...]

3:41 pm on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Ben has tons of info and hard core stats about parasites on his site. [benedelman.org...] I assume if you dig you may find some numbers.

Linda

4:58 pm on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Just to follow up on Catalyst's post: Earlier this week I released a major article showing affiliate code replacements by 180solutions. 180 operates via both "double popups" (which load a merchant's site, via an affiliate link, in a second window on screen) and off-screen "silent replacements" (which load a merchan't site, via an affiliate link, in a hidden IFRAME not visible on screen).

[edited by: jcoronella at 5:25 am (utc) on July 12, 2004]

5:07 pm on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for all the feeback.
6:05 pm on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I can't believe that these merchants and networks allow these giant scam companies to be affiliates and allow them to use forced clicks and forced cookie stuffing and redirects. That means that all those merchants are paying for nothing because the users who are infected with these virus like scumware are not finding these merchants sites to buy through these scumware companies at all. They are just finding them through the normal internet channels that they would of found them Anyways by. Like through search engines, natural listings, ads, affiliate links (through the real affiliates) and then they pay out someone just for infecting someone's computer who would of found them even if they were not infected.

Abs***tely Brilliant!

Why isn't this stuff illegal? Surely they deserve to be in jail more so then mere "spammers".

Next time someone out there starts another insidious virus that messes up people's computers they should add these hidden 'user agreements' for the virus bundled into something else that they think they are really downloading. That way they can claim it was all 100% legal and "permission- based".

What are the alternatives to affiliate programs who use cookies? That would rule out all of CJ and Linkshare and any other networks. As well as a lot of independents. Perhaps the smaller independent affiliate programs are not a target? Only the large networks and large merchants? Is the alternative private label re-seller sites? Or tracking through custom dedicated sub-domains?

If I ever get on the merchant side of an affiliate program (and I very well might), I will make sure not only to approve each and every affiliate application manually, but also to write a lengthly legal TOS that gives me the authority to take Massive legal action against any scumware company or participant who violates it.

8:33 pm on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I don't think "people click yes" is a compelling defense for 180's behavior. A couple things to bear in mind:

1) 180solutions software often gets installed without a user's meaningful informed consent -- or, in some cases, any consent at all. Take a look at my research on 180 installation methods. Note installation through drive-bys (which make no mention of any license agreement for users to consent to); through bundling (with absolutely minimal notice -- on page 16 of a 54 page End User License Agreement, without even any special font formatting to flag the mention of 180); and even through browser security holes.

2) Users cannot consent to 180 violating affiliate networks' terms and conditions. But from my analysis of affiliate networks' rules and of 180's behavior, 180's behavior does seem to be in pretty clear violation. Read the text and judge for yourself.

[edited by: bedelman at 8:56 pm (utc) on July 11, 2004]

8:53 pm on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Ben,

Thanks for joining us! Do you have any numbers you can share with us here on what % of sales are hijacked for programs whenu, 180, and claria are part of?

I'm guessing this is the sort of info that only the networks or folks actually running aff' programs can collect.

9:57 pm on July 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Because people click YES.

If they are deceptively downloading to people's computers and over 80-90% of the people's who's computers are infected have no idea that they downloaded these programs or how to remove them, that clearly is 'deceptive' business practices. They don't want it to be clear and open what the users are downloading and to give them a choice letting them know what it is going to do and that it is going to force pop-ups everywhere as well as overwrite all of there cookies everywhere they go. Like stated, a lot of times these programs download themselves "unsolicited" through a unasked for pop-up and other clever ways...

And what would it matter if a user does click 'yes' on something if the language to describe something is so vague and misleading and then it turns out to be a trojan horse that messes up there computer? Does that mean they asked for there computer to be messed up and destroyed like that? Or does it mean that the language was both buried and deceptive as to mislead users into not understanding what it is.

And secondly, if they are using forced clicks and forced cookies and redirects to overwrite thousands and thousands of affiliate cookies to there own through these deceptive practices that could possibly fall into an illegal area based on the antitrust laws.

A bunch of affiliates should all get together and sue these companies in federal court for antitrust. So basically unfair and deceptive business practices, even though this is an entirely new area and new business strategy that clearly needs some new rules and defining what is fair and ethical.

6:04 am on July 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I can't believe that these merchants and networks allow these giant scam companies to be affiliates and allow them to use forced clicks and forced cookie stuffing and redirects.

It's all about money I suppose. And we are talking about a lot of money too... ...
7:20 am on July 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Perhaps site owner should install some anti-parasite script.

[edited by: eljefe3 at 2:12 am (utc) on July 13, 2004]

2:36 pm on July 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I have a combined anti-spyware script and an aff program for selling a spyware remover.

[edited by: jcoronella at 5:58 pm (utc) on July 12, 2004]

11:07 pm on July 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

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And what would it matter if a user does click 'yes' on something if the language to describe something is so vague and misleading and then it turns out to be a trojan horse that messes up there computer? Does that mean they asked for there computer to be messed up and destroyed like that? Or does it mean that the language was both buried and deceptive as to mislead users into not understanding what it is.

If people don't understand what they're clicking YES to, then they shouldn't click YES.

You can hope for the laws to change or you can deal with the current reality. I choose the latter.

2:12 am on July 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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If people don't understand what they're clicking YES to, then they shouldn't click YES.

Perhaps. But the problem is that they do 'think' that they understand. When they download kazaa or some other program they think that's all they are getting. If such an overwhelming % of people think they understand but do not, does that not show that there is a bit of a "clarity" problem? And these companies are purposely trying to be ambiguous and misleading.

Legally though, say a company confusingly advertised something in the way they worded that advertisement. But buried deep within a 20 page "agreement" that no one ever reads, they say that the user is agreeing to let them debit there credit card daily until it is maxed out. As well as search for any other credit card numbers they might have on there computer and do the same with those card numbers. And then also take over there email program and spam from there computer everyone in there address book to get them to download the same thing, with promises that it will "help" them. Hey, they said yes. I don't think that these lengthy agreements totally give them the right to use misleading advertising and other ill-gotten methods of getting on people's computers that bypass all user initiated downloading completely.

You can hope for the laws to change or you can deal with the current reality. I choose the latter.

It's not an "either" "or". Of course you HAVE to unfortunately deal with the current reality as it stands on a day to day basis. But doesn't mean you can also not only hope for the laws to change, but actively help in getting them changed and raising awareness.

5:04 pm on July 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Hmmm.... why do the large networks even allow this kind of thing?

In the meantime, all the more reason to switch people over to Firefox, and run Ad-Aware or similar programs.

11:38 pm on July 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

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But buried deep within a 20 page "agreement" that no one ever reads, they say that the user is agreeing to let them debit their credit card daily until it is maxed out. As well as search for any other credit card numbers they might have on there computer and do the same with those card numbers. And then also take over there email program and spam from there computer everyone in there address book to get them to download the same thing, with promises that it will "help" them. Hey, they said yes.

You're comparing something that is illegal to something you think is immoral. It doesn't work that way. Car dealers have been tacking on meaningless charges (legally) for decades. Are you going after them, too? It's legal so really there's nothing you can do but change the law.

12:39 am on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Here's an interesting article:

[mediapost.com...]

12:42 am on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The braking of merchant's and networks legal tos agreements is not legally o.k. though. Or braking there own posted privacy policies.

At least in Civil court a lot of people and companies do have a good case.

It's legal so really there's nothing you can do but change the law.

Exactly. That's what needs to happen and I'm sure it will in a matter of time. There free ride won't last forever. They are too abusive to have any staying power. It will become underground and offshore I'm sure just like spam and dialers.

What's legal today can easily be illegal tomorrow and vice versa. Just arbitrary B.S. Laws are independent of ethics a lot of the time.

2:27 am on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Interesting article. CJ and Linkshare are loving it. I would never trust using there network as a merchant. Too much of a profitible 'special interest' for them to cheat there merchants.

Here's another very old article that's interesting about the "drive-by downloads".

[news.com.com...]

2:30 am on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I have a combined anti-spyware script and an aff program for selling a spyware remover.

Not to change the subject from the spyware programs, but don't a lot of the anti-spyware programs and removers also block all affiliate cookies?

Are there certain anti-spyware programs you can find that verifiably don't block affiliate cookies?

2:12 pm on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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>>> It's legal so really there's nothing you can do but change the law.

The courts and legislators seem to be very naive about internet technology. Affiliates are a scattered group of independent businesses, most of them small businesses with no collective clout.

What if I offered you a free DVD with cool programming on it? Along with it comes a license telling all about my sneaky ways. You pop it into your DVD player, enjoy the program, and from then on the ads sent by your cable company get replaced by my ads.

My guess is the court would find that illegal tampering and make me stop, even though you agreed to my license. No new law needed. Already illegal.

2:37 pm on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Interesting that the discussion is revolving around whether it is legal or not.

Merchants and ethical affiliates should consider leaving for a smaller network. What do you think would happen if they suddenly lost 10% of their market share?

4:02 pm on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Interesting that the discussion is revolving around whether it is legal or not.

Well, it's nice to talk 'ethics', but in reallity there is *SO MUCH MONEY* involved and entangled with publicly traded companies that the only real change is going to come from either the legal system, or from a mass exodus of the money.

The big networks can't just abandon that kind of money without considering their shareholders interests. The advertisers certainly aren't going to abandon it unless the affiliates speak up... and affiliates generally can't afford turn off an entire network in protest.

4:13 pm on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The breaking of merchant's and networks legal tos agreements is not legally o.k. though. Or breaking their own posted privacy policies.

A TOS is not the law. Regardless, I have yet to see a TOS that says I can't replace someone else's affiliate code with my own.

What do privacy policies have to do with it?

4:20 pm on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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What if I offered you a free DVD with cool programming on it? Along with it comes a license telling all about my sneaky ways. You pop it into your DVD player, enjoy the program, and from then on the ads sent by your cable company get replaced by my ads.

What law has been broken?

Tivo allows you to skip over commercials. I can use my hosts file to block ads on a website. About.com frames other people's sites? Are these common modifications of what is delivered considered "tampering"?

5:22 pm on July 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I'm not a lawyer, but I believe it would be considered tortious interference if the ads were replaced without concious action on the part of the viewer. I think the broadcasters and cable companies and adverstisers would have enough clout to swing it their way. I don't know of any case where they went after any ad blocking. But I would bet they'd bring a court action to stop ad substitution.
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