Adware distributor Zango will give up US$3 million in "ill-gotten gains" for deceptive downloads that displayed billions of unwanted pop-up ads in a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).The settlement, announced Friday, bars Zango from loading software onto consumers\u2019 computers without their consent, the FTC said. The settlement also requires Zango, formerly known as 180solutions, to provide a way for consumers to remove the adware. Also named in the settlement were Zango executives Keith Smith and Daniel Todd, of Bellevue, Wash."Consumers ... shouldn\u2019t have to accept any content they don\u2019t want," Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC\u2019s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "If consumers choose to receive pop-up ads, so be it. But it violates federal law to secretly install software that forces consumers to get pop-ups that disrupt their computer use."Zango in a statement released Friday\u00a0said the settlement establishes standards for software downloads and provides consumers with a "new and higher level of protection." Zango has met or exceeded the settlement\u2019s requirements since Jan. 1, the company said.The company has hired an independent auditor to monitor its compliance with the FTC settlement, Zango said.Early in the company\u2019s existence, "we relied too heavily on our affiliates to enforce our consumer notice and consent policies," Smith, the company\u2019s chief executive, said in the statement. The FTC\u2019s actions have provided "clarity around best practices," a welcome step forward for businesses providing downloaded content, he added."We deeply regret and apologize for the resulting negative impact,\u201d he said.The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a consumer and civil rights advocacy group that filed a complaint against Zango in January, applauded the settlement. "This is a landmark settlement, and one that sends an important message to companies that have built their businesses on the backs of Internet users without any concern for what those users want," Ari Schwartz, CDT\u2019s deputy director, said in a statement. Zango often used third parties to install adware on consumers\u2019 computers, the FTC said. The adware monitored consumers\u2019 Internet use in order to display targeted pop-up ads. Zango\u2019s software has been installed on U.S. consumers\u2019 computers more than 70 million times and has displayed more than 6.9 billion pop-up ads, the FTC said.Zango\u2019s third-party distributors often offered consumers free software, such as screensavers, peer-to-peer file-sharing software and games, without saying adware would be included, the FTC said.In other cases, Zango distributors exploited security vulnerabilities in Web browsers to install the adware. As a result, millions of consumers had their Internet use monitored without their knowledge, the FTC said.The FTC accused Zango of deliberately making it difficult to locate and remove the adware once it was installed. Zango named its adware files with names resembling those of core systems software, provided uninstall tools that failed to uninstall the adware, gave confusing labels to those uninstall tools, and installed code on consumers\u2019 computers that would enable the adware to be reinstalled secretly when consumers attempted to remove it, the FTC said.-Grant Gross, IDG News Service (Washington Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.