(Photo by Christopher Wink)
A Chicago man named Dan Halperin is suing two Philly tech companies for engaging in a practice that is “incredibly devious,” said Halperin’s attorney, Joseph Siprut.
The matter at hand is a little convoluted, but what it comes down to is this, according to Siprut: Halperin alleges that these companies are selling ad space on websites without going through the actual owners of the website. That practice, detailed in this May 2014 Ad Age story, can lead to a Target ad being on Walmart’s website, for example. That’s deceptive, Siprut said, because it makes people see a website in a way that the website’s owners didn’t originally intend. The case is still pending.
Halperin is suing two companies:
University City lead generation company Leadnomics and another company called International Web Services that also goes by the name Amazing Apps.
Amazing Apps appears to be an alias of Leadnomics sister company 50onRed, but when asked about the connection between the companies, 50onRed cofounder Stephen Gill declined to answer, saying he could not comment on lawsuits involving the company or its clients. (Amazing Apps is registered at 2929 Arch Street, the Cira Centre, where Leadnomics sister company 5oonRed is located, and some malware sites have connected the two companies.) Gill is the cofounder of three companies — 50onRed, Leadnomics and RightAction — that formerly all shared office space.
When asked for comment, Leadnomics cofounder Zach Robbins wrote in a statement:
Leadnomics was wrongfully named in the lawsuit brought by an aggressive plaintiff’s class action firm. Our lead generation business is completely unrelated to the practices at issue in the lawsuit. The case has already been partially dismissed by the judge, and we expect it to be fully dismissed any day now.
Here’s what Gill wrote in a statement:
I can’t comment on lawsuits involving the company or its clients. However, as an entrepreneur in the tech industry, I can speak to the problems we all face with aspects of the US legal system. It’s broken. Many entrepreneurs don’t realize that anyone can become the target of a bogus lawsuit based on manufactured stories and false information, which can drag on for years and distract a young company from what’s most important – growing the business.
Last year, Ad Age reported on what it called a “big ad ‘injection’ scheme” that sounds a lot like what Halperin is alleging. The report named Gill’s third company, RightAction, as one of the companies that “injects ads,” or sells ad space on a company’s website without their permission and pockets the revenue.
One way these ads enter the ecosystem is through a Philadelphia-based ad server and exchange called RightAction. Contacted by Ad Age, co-founder Stephen Gill said he’s aware of the injected ads. “Like many other companies in our space, RightAction decided that not all toolbar and plugin inventory is bad,” he said, in an email.
The story also names a company called 215 Apps, also known as Engaging Apps, as another player in the ad injection industry. Both of those companies are registered at the Cira Centre and have also been linked to 5oonRed via malware sites.
Malware suits, like Halperin’s, aren’t as common as they used to be, said Odia Kagan, a Drexel law professor specializing in internet law and cybersecurity. They were popular in 2004 and 2005 but seemed to fall off, she said, because technology evolved and companies focused on targeted advertising, where companies collect data based on your internet surfing habits and serve ads that way.