Two Students Challenge The FTC

Tina Reilly
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two college students are creating a major cramp in the Federal Government’s side over the legalities of commonly used pop-up advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is being challenged by two University of San Diego college students, Anish Dhingra and Jeffrey Davis, who were able to exploit a feature in Microsoft’s Windows Messenger service.

The two 20-year-olds, owners of software company D-Squared Solutions LLC, have filed a counter-suit against the government’s effort to regulate pop-up advertisements, claiming that federal regulators are impinging on their right to free speech.

According to the Associated Press, D-Squared has been forced by the Federal Government to halt their aggressive pop-up ad campaign. The FTC’s original suit against the duo claimed that they had committed "high-tech extortion" by using the Windows glitch to generate pop-up ads as frequently as every 10 minutes, even when the user was not browsing the Internet.

The FTC alleged in its suit against D-Squared that the two men were “unlawfully” using the Microsoft network for their own business purposes and profits and that home users were unaware of how to stop the flurry of advertisements. However, D-Squared claims that instructions to disable the ads were readily available and that the FTC was overreacting.

D-Squared’s pop-up ads were marketing a software designed to block the same type of aggressive marketing they themselves were conducting.

D-Squared legal team is claiming that transmitting its pop-up ad campaign was not illegal. According to the AP, D-Squared insists that the Messenger technology is now widely considered a serious security threat for home computer users and that its ads helped warn consumers that their computers were at risk.

According to the AP, the two students are countering that the government's allegations go too far.

"It's very unusual for a company to aggressively fight an FTC enforcement action," Mark Rasch, an expert on technology law, told the AP. “Most companies in high-profile FTC lawsuits quickly settle, typically paying a fine and pledging to stop the disputed business practice.”

Both Dhingra and Davis are scheduled to testify in federal court next week.