June 20, 2018

NYT: Software Diverts Referral Commissions

Today’s NYT discusses software that horns in on referral commissions (like those from Amazon’s affiliates program) meant for others.

Based on the article’s description, it looks like the software lurks quietly, waiting until the user’s browser is going to place an order that could generate a commission. Then the software inserts its distributor’s ID into the request, so as to capture the commission. Apparently the software even puts its own ID in place of another party’s ID, meaning that it captures commissions “meant” for others.

This software comes bundled into programs that a user downloads for free. The user “consents” to the commission-grabbing software’s behavior via vague language inserted into the enclosing product’s click-through agreement.

This seems like a pretty slimy thing to do. Maybe the lawyers out there can tell us whether it’s legal.