Class action suit against Bonzi for fake dialog box banners
December 4, 2002 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Your Internet Connection Is Not Optimized! Are the ever-popular fake error message banners illegal? The people involved in the current class action suit against Bonzi Software (makers of the infamous BonziBuddy and several other programs that have been classified as Adware/Trackware and accused of being Spyware) believe so.
posted by c3o (27 comments total)

 
I like this term: Fake User Interface (“FUI”) dialogs

Short article, but I'd have to agree with them. I think about my mother using the 'net, and all of these "System Warnings" must come up, encouraging her to think that something really is wrong with her computer. Not everyone is an accomplished 'net surfer and knows how to steer clear of these things.

It's really no different than someone sending a very official looking message to your house saying that the foundation is bad in your house and must be replaced immediately.
posted by eas98 at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2002


What about the ones that say "THERE MAY BE PORNOGRAPHY ON YOUR COMPUTER!!!"

It scares the hell out of me, I always have to check if all the porn I've collected for the last 10 years is still there.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:09 AM on December 4, 2002


"Bonzi tricked millions of internet users into interrupting the work they were performing to respond to the fraudulent error message, only to unexpectedly find both computer and computer user thus hijacked to defendants’ commercial website."

I agree with the intent of the lawsuit, but don'tcha think hijacked is a bit of a stretch?
posted by astirling at 8:27 AM on December 4, 2002


Let us know when this is turned into a real class action suit -- I want in on that five hundred bucks! Better start clicking those banners now -- they'll be worths omething later!
posted by tweebiscuit at 8:34 AM on December 4, 2002


In terms of ridding the Internet of deceptive advertising practices like these, my guess is that real progress won't occur until the big publishers get involved. In this case by denying space to advertisers like Bonzi. But by and large they're too desperate and shortsighted these days to do that.

Gator, which is even more evil, was sued sveral months ago by some news sites and was hit with an injunction that effectively prevents them from spewing their third-party popups on those sites.

But Gator's a different case, since no site ever consented to being vandalized by Gator. I don't think the publishers could get away with suing Bonzi et al, since they knew full well how deceptive the campaigns were when they accepted them.
posted by dougb at 9:31 AM on December 4, 2002


Why is "hijacked" a stretch? Spyware built into KaZaa used to run processes on a user's computer for distributed apps that had nothing to do with file sharing. That's pretty much highjacking. At boot, Gator and Bonzi Buddy are awake at and monitoring what you're visiting on the web. I'd consider that taking control of some of your computer processes away from you. I'd consider that hijacking.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:43 AM on December 4, 2002


It would be nice as well if the advertising venues would enforce their own rules.

See the "Special Information" paragragh in Yahoo's Media Kit.

Advertisements cannot mislead the user. For example, they may not mimic or resemble Windows/Macintosh/Unix dialogue boxes, error messages, or the like.
posted by MJoachim at 9:45 AM on December 4, 2002


i hate lawsuits more than banner ads.
i'll agree with eas98 - trying to teach my dad the internet (over the phone, NO LESS) was the most painful experience i've ever endured. he couldnt grasp what a button was, since it was just a shape on the screen and not a -real- button. so yeah i can see this as deceptive.
still, i believe in the whole showman/darwin's ethic of 'a sucker born every minute' and i return to my original point of hating lawsuits more than banner ads.
posted by Peter H at 9:48 AM on December 4, 2002


Just wondering why Microsoft hasn't filed trade dress actions against these "FUIs?"
posted by anathema at 9:57 AM on December 4, 2002


<TOPIC=OFF>
Of course, we Mac users are nothing but amused by those bogus "error" messages because, well... they don't look like error messages to us, they look like cheap attempts to trick bumbling PC users into clicking through someplace they wouldn't otherwise want to go...
</TOPIC>
posted by JollyWanker at 10:00 AM on December 4, 2002


i hate lawsuits more than banner ads.
Yeah, it's so annoying when people try to stop fraud, or get compensation for their damages. They should stop that.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:03 AM on December 4, 2002


Nice post, c3o, and an interesting find, MJoachim. Wonder what Yahoo! would have to say about that one. It's pathetic that major newspaper sites accept such obvious deceptions as ads.
posted by mediareport at 10:04 AM on December 4, 2002


Stan Chin says:
What about the ones that say "THERE MAY BE PORNOGRAPHY ON YOUR COMPUTER!!!"

I've seen this pop up several times recently, and each time my gut reaction is to yell, "There sure as hell better be!"
posted by deadcowdan at 10:23 AM on December 4, 2002


...they look like cheap attempts to trick bumbling PC users into clicking through someplace they wouldn't otherwise want to go...

Well duh. There aren't enough people using macs to warrant making the ads look like macintosh error messages.
posted by glenwood at 10:42 AM on December 4, 2002


The class action Complaint was brought on behalf of all persons residing in the United States who have, while operating a computer, encountered an advertising banner like those illustrated on this website.

Number of internet users in US and Canada: 165.65 million. Shall we say 60% of them are in the US? 100 million. Say that 25% of those people got "hijacked": 25 million. Say that 5% of them become plaintiffs in the class action: 1.25 million plaintiffs, at $500 a head... Bonzi owes $625 million dollars.

That makes me smile. (I know, that's way too many plaintiffs, but still... I can dream, can't I?)
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:58 AM on December 4, 2002


My righteous anger at advertisements has surpassed banner ads and popups that resemble error dialog boxes.

I'm now focused on Windows Messenger Spam. I'm not speaking of Instant Messenger, I'm talking about using the Messenger service as a method of broadcasting your advertisement.

Now, getting one of these dialog boxes advertising a University Diploma or new Penis Cream is a pretty obvious click off the screen. However, getting a message that begins: "WARNING: Files on your computer are vulnerable to hackers and malicious users!!" -- and it's an advertisment for a web history and cookie manager, is enough for me to bring up a Whois and a Traceroute, and start rowing upstream to chew some abuse desk's ear off.

Bastards. All of them.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:30 AM on December 4, 2002


Re: teaching parents how to surf.

I just told my mom to click "no" to everything, and if there was a box that said "do not ask me again" then to check that box before saying no. Still, there's all kinds of stuff on her computer, including bonzi and gator. You just can't learn them well enough.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:39 AM on December 4, 2002


outlawyr come on now. do you really think most lawsuits come from a sense of civic/moral justice, or is it possibly just a snake catching another snake with its pants down and screaming, "gotcha" ..i'm assuming by your handle that you're gonna say no, but seriously lawsuits are rarely to save the sick kids from the orphanage and are all too often to exploit something for money or attention.
posted by Peter H at 12:00 PM on December 4, 2002


suit? I like it.... but hate it too. I find those banners quite misleading. Its like a company putting a sign on your front door saying that your home contains asbestos and then suggests that you to call them to check it.
posted by tomplus2 at 12:18 PM on December 4, 2002


do you really think most lawsuits come from a sense of civic/moral justice, or is it possibly just a snake catching another snake with its pants down and screaming, "gotcha" ...

While there are certainly frivolous lawsuits, they make up only a tiny percentage of the civil litigation in our courts. Suing someone is difficult, expensive, and time consuming, and suits are generally matters of last resort, brought after great consideration and deliberation on the part of the plaintiff. A workable system of civil litigation is a prerequisite for democracy: only through our civil courts can contract law be enforced and can corporations and individuals be held responsible for negligent behavior. While our current system is not perfect, and there are certainly abuses, the American civil justice system in general does its job and does it well. In the words of the Center for Justice and Democracy:

Anecdotal descriptions of a few atypical lawsuits intended to shock or amuse the public are the cornerstone of the business community's anti-lawsuit advertising and public relations campaign since the 1980s. Focusing on a few rare, anecdotal cases, instead of the majority of cases that pass through the courts each year, feeds into a false and dangerous perception that the system is overflowing with frivolous lawsuits.

You might want to check out some of the articles at the CJ&D page I linked above; I know it's a lobbying group with a definite bias, but they make some good points.

And no, IANAL.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:27 PM on December 4, 2002


RylandDotNet said:

Number of internet users in US and Canada: 165.65 million. Shall we say 60% of them are in the US? 100 million.

I am pretty sure that, unless about 35 million people snuck in recently, that more than 100 million of that 165 is American..Canada is sitting at something like 25-30 million citizens.

Just thought I would argue a little...you know, as a Canadian enjoying all the free space.
posted by Richat at 2:33 PM on December 4, 2002


interesting post and link, roboto. thanks.
i'll chew on it. still ..what about gloryhounds who go into law because they couldnt make it as an actor or politician? they chase ambulances down my block all day long, and have websites!
posted by Peter H at 3:45 PM on December 4, 2002


From the press release "Bonzi is believed to have issued in excess of 300 million such banner ads." Seems like they are pretty bad at fact finding. Bonzi ads receive at least 300 million impressions a week. According to Netratings 1.4 bil Bonzi ads have been displayed in August alone.
posted by noom at 7:00 PM on December 4, 2002


gotta love those popup security warnings!
posted by quonsar at 9:39 PM on December 4, 2002


*** ALERT ! ***
THIS THREAD IS NOT POLITICISED !
DOWNLOAD FLAMEBOOST NOW !
*** ALERT ! ***
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:33 AM on December 5, 2002


Still, you have to admit that BonziBUDDY is pretty darn cute! Tee hee!
posted by skryche at 7:59 AM on December 5, 2002



posted by BobInce at 3:39 PM on December 5, 2002


« Older Free electricity from the phone company....  |  Bombs found at Dutch IKEA stor... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments