Ignore This Important System Message

Just behind spam, banner ads have to be one of the most annoying aspects of the Internet. It's not so much the ads that appear in the page, next to the article you're reading (unless of course they flash). It's the ads that incessantly pop up in front of the content you're trying to view, that hide behind your browser, that spawn other ads. A nation wide class action lawsuit seeks to remedy the issue to a degree.

Worse than just your vanilla pop up ads are those that mimic a security alert or system message, attempting to deceive the visitor into thinking there is a problem with their computer. They tell the unsuspecting user that there is a problem with their Internet connection and instruct them to click a fake "OK" button to correct the issue. Clicking the button brings you to a commercial Web site.

The biggest offender is Bonzi Software, whose infamous BonziBuddy has ruined more computers than we care to count. Of course, since we also fix computers, we aren't complaining too loudly. Their ads make many misleading claims: "your Internet connection is not optimized." Of course, they want to sell you the solution.

The worst is their "security alert," which uses scare tactics to brow beat users. The ad reads "Your Computer Is Currently Broadcasting An Internet IP Address. With This Address, Someone Can Immediately Begin Attacking Your Computer!" Besides the annoying use of caps and the exclamation point at the end, the ad blatantly preys on user fears for a cheap sale.

To be honest, I don't exactly understand the lawsuit. Sure, the ads are misleading; to be sure, Bonzi Software makes the most wretched programs. In the end, however, it's still the user that chooses to install the software. They prey upon consumer ignorance, but that's nothing revolutionary, and not exactly illegal as far as I can tell.

As much as I'd like to see Bonzi go the way of their brethren dot-coms, the lawsuit appears to be a bit frivolous. At best, it will tie up Bonzi resources that would normally go to making bad software or purchasing banner ad spots. At worst, the lawsuit will fail and clear the way for more misleading advertisements.

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