WhenU: We’re Not Like the Rest

Desktop advertising company WhenU has mounted an elaborate campaign to distinguish itself from players in the space which it says are less reputable.

Thus far, the push has resulted in the naming of a new CEO, the hiring of a well-known privacy expert to audit the company’s technology, and the gaining of certification from anti-spyware firm Aluria. The company’s also launched a new Web site that devotes considerable space to anti-spyware resources. It will even offer a free download of a spyware scanner — which happens to be supported by WhenU advertising.

“We’re attempting to distinguish ourselves not just from spyware but from rogue adware — companies that masquerade as adware but don’t adhere to the standards that WhenU does,” said Avi Naider, WhenU’s founder and president. “These practices have endangered the entire space. What we want to do is make sure that the advertising community and the technology community understands that WhenU has always had a higher set of standards than anyone in our space.”

Because of the large number of bad actors in the desktop space, it’s often difficult for consumers and advertisers to determine whether companies are legitimate or not. WhenU itself has been accused of violating its own privacy policies and of spamming search engines. The latter incident, which WhenU blamed an a third-party search engine optimization firm, got WhenU banned from Google and Yahoo. The controversy has led adware players to make aggressive moves to try to set themselves apart.

Adware player Claria’s most significant action in the area was to hire well-known privacy expert D. Reed Freeman as its chief privacy officer.

WeatherBug, for its part, released a “bill of rights” for desktop software users. In that document, WeatherBug made clear it didn’t think it fit into the “adware” category, though it is ad supported. WeatherBug has also introduced an enterprise version of its software, to give corporate IT folks control and assure them of its legitimacy.

WhenU’s moves began back in September, when it hired former About.com CEO Bill Day to take the CPO role at the adware company. The company has also been involved in lobbying for federal anti-spyware legislation that wouldn’t impose constraints on its business model.

More recently, WhenU hired former Microsoft CPO and privacy guru Richard Purcell to audit its software. Purcell’s company, Corporate Privacy Group, hired technology experts to check out WhenU’s software.

“We found the WhenU software was thoughtfully designed and well-coded,” said Purcell in a statement. “Consistent with company statements, it focuses on showing consumers relevant ads without compromising their privacy.”

Finally, WhenU submitted to a review by Aluria Software, an anti-spyware firm that is America Online’s partner. Aluria granted WhenU its Spyware SAFE Certification, which allows its logo to be displayed on WhenU’s Web site and software. The companies also teamed to offer visitors to the WhenU Web site a free trial copy of the Aluria software product. The free software is supported by WhenU advertising.

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