Adware firm 180solutions Inc. has been referred to the Federal Trade Commission, accused of deliberately and repeatedly attempting to dupe internet users into unwittingly downloading its advert-generating software through a network of affiliates.

Non-profit US interest group the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has also named one of the affiliates in its FTC complaint, filed yesterday.

The complaint is that certain affiliates of 180solutions' distribute the company's adware in unethical ways. Method included security exploits and instant messaging worm attacks. CDT, a group which "works to promote democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age," says 180solutions acquiesces in these distribution methods.

“180solutions and its affiliates have caused immeasurable harm, not just to individual internet users, but to the internet itself,” said CDT Deputy Director Ari Schwartz. “This company’s brazen distribution practices saddle innocent internet users with intrusive software that they neither want nor need and contribute to a general sense of wariness and distrust that threatens to stifle the growth of the medium.”

CDT says that it has been investigating 180solutions and its affiliates for more than two years. During that time, the non-profit group alerted the company about several of its affiliates that were deceptively installing 180solutions' software.

180solutions was initially cooperative, halting certain practices and even going so far as to file lawsuits against some affiliates. However, throughout the two year investigation, CDT says it received a nearly continuous stream of new complaints about 180solutions and its affiliates.

CDT concluded that 180solutions’ underlying business model is fundamentally flawed, and that until it is changed, consumers will continue to become unwitting victims of its deceptive software installations.

“We’re deeply disappointed that we weren’t able to convince 180solutions to clean up its practices,” said Schwartz. “CDT would always prefer to resolve issues of this sort through dialogue and voluntary improvements, but in this case we tried and were unable to reach an agreement that protects consumers.”