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Is Double-Click About To Cost You A Fortune? 6 July 2000 Edition
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It's the school holidays and all over the country, many thousands of parents are probably relieved that the Internet is able to keep their kids happy while ugly winter weather makes playing outside a practical impossibility.

Of course we all know that the Net has more than a few dark alleys and places where you don't want your kids to visit. In fact, some parents have installed SurfPatrol, NetNanny or similar products to try and make sure their kids are protected from the worst of this stuff.

However -- the path from what might seem a very innocuous search engine to some rather hard-core porn is only a few mouse-clicks away as one Aardvark reader pointed out to me yesterday.

What's worse, if you've got curious kids, it could end up costing you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars when they decide to be a little naughty.

I refer to the results of this query, searching on the word "adult" at one of this country's most popular search engines, AccessNZ. (A copy of the results page that was being displayed when this article was written is shown here).

Clicking on this banner leads anyone (including unsuspecting or naughty kids) to an intermediate site called www.sexnz.net. Entering that site actually redirects you to yet another site at www.livesexe.net where there are some rather tame nudes and some instructions in French.

Note that from this point onwards -- leaving the site by closing the browser window will produce yet another porn site appearing in a new window.

Clicking on the "International/USA/UK/Australia" link takes you off to another page which, ultimately appears to result in the download of a dialer program which will disconnect your PC from the Net and dial the equivalent of an international 0900 number.

Along the way, your kids might also end up clicking on the Need Help? button which will invite them to fill out a form that ultimately submits your email address to the "nocreditcard.com" site -- doubtless resulting in an endless tide of porno-spam from that point onwards.

However you look at it, kids being what they are -- there's a risk here that curious kids will end up clicking the buttons until their PC is suddenly connected to some distant shore and ringing up a toll bill of several dollars a minute -- and, at the same time, being dished up God-knows what kind of images.

Now it should be pointed out that the ads on AccessNZ are being dished up by Double Click from their Australian server -- so who's to blame?

One might suggest that it's simply good marketing to relate the banner ads shown on the site to keywords used in a search query. But is "adult" really nothing more than a pornographic term? Going by the results of the search query it would seem not -- after all, the top items returned include:

  • Adspecs, the Advertising Specialists
  • Christchurch and Canterbury Tourist Guide
  • KIDS Foundation of New Zealand
Now I wonder if any of these companies or organisations are really happy to sit on a page with a porno banner at the top of it?

Come on AccessNZ -- if you're going to allow this kind of thing then you ought to at least offer a cookie-controlled "family filter" on your site that makes sure that, when it is active, no porno ads will appear -- regardless of what query term is entered.

Such a facility could be set up by password controlled access to a part of the site which dishes out the cookie and which could be set by parents but not reset without using the parental password entered when the cookie was initialised.

Alternatively, how about disabling adult ads until after (say) 10pm in the evenings?

What do you, the reader, think?

Should AccessNZ be acting more responsibly -- particularly during the school holidays? Or is it irresponsible for DoubleClick to be delivering ads for a site that would appear to create a situation where people (particularly minors) might unwittingly rack up a huge toll bill.

Mike Masters, A Follow-Up
Just in case you missed yesterday's mid-day update on the Mike Masters piece, please check out yesterday's edition to see who was really at fault.

Just a reminder -- most NZ ISPs are now running very agressive proxy servers so it doesn't hurt to force a reload of Aardvark if you're visiting in the afternoon or evening -- just in case there's been an update during the day.

As always, your feedback is welcomed.

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