Cost Per Download: Always Ensure Full Disclosure


Before downloading any free web application, users must ensure that proper disclosure is always provided before proceeding.  Oftentimes, I believe that download campaigns are mistakenly labeled as “adware” and therefore maintain a malicious stigma.  When, in actuality, many download campaigns are actually very safe and virus free, particularly if proper disclosure is given.  Albeit in cases where more cleaner downloads may be detected by AV scanners, its always critical to view at minimum, the following: a) full consent and opt in procedure b) option to opt out and uninstall c) clear user installation flow and finally and most importantly d) clear and transparent instructions on how to uninstall.

Downloadable campaigns and / or campaigns which convert on download or install, are getting a bad rap and at most times this is more an issue of misperception.  Certainly, there are clearly nefarious downloads that are out there, without question.  In particular, those downloadable campaigns that give no disclosure should be avoided first and foremost.  By disclosure we mean that the prospective user that is attempting to download, must be presented with clear and concise disclosure which clearly outlines what the user will be installing exactly on their PC, upon giving consent.

As many downloadable campaigns are often monetized with search providers and various searchfeeds including Google, Bing, Ask and Infospace as few examples, all of these search providers will of course relay their disclosure requirements and distributors must adhere to these standards before any packaged.  In most cases, some search providers for example, will allow for a pre-check on the terms.  Normally, with a pre-check option and with the user is given consent to proceed the package, will then do either one or all of the following actions, upon clicking “next”:

–          Reset search homepage to the new search provider
–          Reset the default search or DNS
–          Install or attach the new search providers toolbar

In many cases, Google, Bing, Ask or Yahoo’s brand may not be particularly associated with the toolbar that is being installed with the overall package.  This is essentially the result of their many distribution providers that currently leverage the partner’s brands as a white label and or private brand.  One good example of this would be Conduit, .  This distribution provider will then either power their toolbar with one of these four search providers (in US case, this could be either Google, Bing, Ask, Yahoo, Yandex, Baidu, Blekko, etc.). as their exclusive searchfeed provider.  In many cases, white label toolbar distributors will also blend these various searchfeeds, creating one unified feed as a blend, or a “metafeed”.  When in doubt, you can always check the privacy policy or terms of use to validate which actual core search provider is actually powering the branded toolbar.

Overall, downloads do not have to be nefarious and harmful, particularly, if the user has given consent to install a search toolbar (most likely tethered to some free anchor or “hook” product, like a game or free utility).  Users will also want to ensure that clear and recognizable brands are shown are at least made available with a fully transparent and visible link to both the terms of use and privacy policy.  This is true even in cases of white label or branded toolbars and brower helper objects.  Its always smart really prudent and smart to walk through the entire installation process of a download before automatically labeling it as a “adware”.  In the end, its really the major search feed providers that depend on bundle distributors for core and widespread distribution of their searchfeed.  This is true of course, if done in an openly transparent and compliant manner.

What's your opinion?