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Is the 3rd largest Advertiser on Facebook a Bing Affiliate Scam?

18 January 2011 BY

Don’t you hate it when you click on a link or an ad all of a sudden your browser is taken over? You can only search using a specific search engine and you get banners and pop ups all the time? You don’t want that. Still, there are ‘advertisers’ (if you can call them that) out there which lure you into the clicks and then take over, that’s what we sometimes call a scam.

These kind of ‘advertisers’ are usually found on untrusted sites. Websites which you should not even be visiting in the first place. If you go there, than it’s your own fault. But what if it happens on the World’s largest site? What if a Facebook advertiser does this? How would you like that?

Google’s anti-spam boss Matt Cutts did a shocking discovery yesterday. He found that the 3rd largest Advertiser on Facebook seems to be pulling these kind of stunts. And to make it even worse, it turns your default search engine into Bing. Not that Bing is bad, but from then on every search you do is making the advertiser money. Again, not a bad thing. But maybe they should tell us?

Cutts found this because he was triggered by a publication in AdAge. That website reported on the $1.86 billion Facebook is making in advertising. That is a lot of money and funny enough a lot of that money comes from Google. The search engine is the 5th largest advertiser on Facebook.

The strange thing however is not that Google is in the list, but the number 3: Make-My-Baby.com. A website many of you (including myself) probably have never even heard of. Matt Cutts decided to take a look at that site. I suggest you don’t.

Cutts described what he saw on his Buzz account (yes, that still exists):

“Visiting make-my-baby.com instantly prompts you to install a browser plugin. The “terms and conditions” link takes you to http://mmb.bingstart.com/terms/ which has phrases like “If Chrome (“CR”) is installed on your PC we may change the default setting of your home page on CR to Bingstart.com.

I also noticed this phrase in the Zugo toolbar section: “To uninstall the Toolbar, please visit the Toolbar FAQ ( http://www.zugo.com/toolbar/faq/ ).” Sadly, that url is a broken link. It looks like a few people have had trouble uninstalling the Bing/Zugo toolbar, according to pages like http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/questions/746034 or http://mymountain.blogspot.com/2010/03/how-to-remove-bingzugo-toolbar-hijack.html”

And he also let’s us know what it says in the fine print (the part of websites nobody ever reads):

“Installing the toolbar includes managing the browser default search settings and setting your homepage to bing.com”.

The website shows a pop up which states that there is a plugin required to ‘present an enhanced experience”. That plugin takes over your browser settings and changes your default search engine.

So what is going on here? Make-My-Baby.com has spent many dollars on Facebook and then turns this scam on? Is it a scam anyway? And what has Bing got to do with this?

Well it might look as a simple affiliate-trick at first. Bing is not involved here. They offer an affiliate program which Make-My-Baby.com makes use of. So far nothing wrong. But the fact that the websites ‘takes control’ over how you search without really letting you know and the fact that it seems difficult to turn it off makes it close to being a scam or at least unethical.

The strange part here is that neither Facebook or Bing seem to mind. But then again, changing the default search engine happens a lot. It is just the way it’s done which raises eyebrows. A bit ‘sneaky’, which it shouldn’t be when you are Facebook’s third largest advertiser.

AUTHORED BY:
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Bas van den Beld is a speaker, trainer and online marketing strategist. Bas is the founder of Stateofdigital.com. -- You can hire Bas to speak, train or consult.
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