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WhenU Spams, Breaks Google's 'No Cloaking' Rule

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the nelson-laughs-as-ben-smacks dept.

Google 12

stev_mccrev writes "Harvard Student Ben Edelman released this report documenting at least thirteen web sites operated by WhenU (the spyware company who recently sued Utah) that use cloaking to fool search engines into higher rankings. WhenU was dropped by Google and Yahoo! on May 12; on May 13, WhenU CEO Avi Naider confirmed the accusations, but added that the questionable practices were the work of its heretofore undisclosed search engine optimization (SEO) firm--which, he said, was promptly fired following the news." (Here's a link to Edelman's previous reports on WhenU's activities.)

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12 comments

what rush? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9236654)

don't see no rush...

Wikipedia Cloaking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9236950)

While there are some legitimate uses for cloaking, like giving text to the search engines while giving Macromedia Flash to users (since search engines can't understand Flash).

This is totally illegitimate, how else can we slow the spiders down if we don't give them stupid big pointless Flash files to chew on, after all Flash makes the pages load faster doesn't it!

Meh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9237151)

Who cares? Google and Yahoo banned them because of it... At this point why do I care?

Is there someone ignoring their blatant flaunting of the rules so everything must know?

What's the point of posting this?

Why This Matters (5, Interesting)

bedelman (42523) | more than 9 years ago | (#9237787)

I think this is a bigger deal than folks here have recognized:

1) It's not often that Google and Yahoo and MSN take public action against those who break their rules. There's surely lots of cloaking going on in the world, but most of it seems to go undetected, or at least unpublished, by search engine staff. Conversely, I gather it's rare for a company as big as WhenU to try cloaking -- most cloakers are somewhat smaller, somewhat less established, and have somewhat less to lose (can just set up shop on some new domains if their old domains get excldued from search engine results).

2) My research indicates WhenU has been engaging in a pattern of search engine smapping. There's the cloaking, described above. Then WhenU copied some dozens of articles to more than a dozen WhenU web servers -- without statements of authorization to reproduce, and without even copyright notices. (One publisher confirmed that the article copies were unauthorized.) What to make of this? Again, I believe, the best interpretation is a desire to manipulate search results to boost availability of pro-WhenU content at the expense of critics, search engine rules and copyright law notwithstanding. Details at http://www.benedelman.org/spyware/whenu-copy [benedelman.org] .

3) WhenU has other bad practices of note. See my release of last week: WhenU Violates Own Privacy Policy [benedelman.org] : WhenU has been telling users that its software "doesn't collect or send your browsing activity anywhere" when, in fact, it does. My site has screen-shots, HTTP logs, etc.

Ben Edelman
benedelman.org [benedelman.org]

Re:Why This Matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9245377)

These people are sleazeballs.
What did you expect?

Not surprising... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9237197)

...that a Jew company would behave without any shred of ethical decency.

The shortest book in the history of the world: Jewish Business Ethics, published by the Syracuse University Press.

Re:Not surprising... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9237311)

Fortunately, they were stopped by Ben Edelman, a ...
er, wait.

This comes as nearly no surprise (4, Insightful)

justkarl (775856) | more than 9 years ago | (#9237566)

Especially with the threat of legislation against "marketing firms", these companies have little else to do but cheat the system. If you're going down, might as well do it in flames, right?

Or, think of it this way...these companies have built themselves on the principle of putting software on your computer without you knowing...They're in the buisness of cheating.

Spam i can handle (4, Insightful)

huber (723453) | more than 9 years ago | (#9237708)

With proper instruction and configuration spam can be delt with. However i depise spyware to the point that it has cpmpletly driven me away from windows. When i work on peoples machines i have to explain to them the concept of spyware and they always ask: "Is that legal?" My reply is always that it shouldnt be. it is a buisness model that needs to go away. If i came to your home to fix your sink for instance, should i be alowed to install a camera to gather what kind of dish soap that you use to clean your dishes so i can sell that information to essy & johnson? NO.

Re:Spam i can handle (2, Interesting)

base3 (539820) | more than 9 years ago | (#9238352)

It's not legal. The proof of this is that if you or I wrote an application to do the same thing, we would be thrown in prison. But corporations can push this crap with impunity for some (cough, bribes, cough) reason.

Interesting (3, Insightful)

molnarcs (675885) | more than 9 years ago | (#9238827)

This is one of the most interesting news I read today on ./ - its a pity it received so little attention. Not only because the info proper, but also because the way in which it is presented: to the point, explanatory/informative and most importantly - devastating.

What really amazes me is that this kind of research doesn't require much (well, it does in a way: you have to be clever and motivated) - ctrl+PrintScrn, archive.org, google, whois/dig, etc, yet it does have a significant impact.

No email = No spam? (1)

aacool (700143) | more than 9 years ago | (#9240096)

The April 21 strip for UserFriendly [userfriendly.org] had an apt thing to say about spam.

Basically the time will probably come when we will treat spam like bacteria - it's there, but that doesnt mean we have to like it or care.

No filter is perfect, not even this one.

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