Paying US$12 a share for a company that was wallowing at just US$1.85
on 22 October 2004, is an extraordinary leap of faith. But that’s
precisely what Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has done with its $770
million purchase of Intermix yesterday. Check out the explanation from
News Corp about its new-found lover affair with the internet here.

The problem with the internet has always been getting effective
advertisements in front of willing consumers and the problem with
Intermix is that it’s one of the world’s worst offenders when its
comes to privacy breaching spy ware.

Check out this story from The Register in April about the war waged by
New York Attorney General and wannabe Democrat presidential candidate
Eliot Spitzer against Intermix earlier this year. It settled for US$7.5 million as you can see here.

Blogger Alan Jones also produced this interesting post yesterday reflecting
on the contrast with the ridiculous $4.67 billion that Yahoo! paid for
Geocities at the peak of the dotcom boom. Asked by The New York Times if paying such a big price for Intermix gave him pause, Rupert replied, “You bet.”

The Murdoch press was naturally reluctant to highlight Intermix’s
brushes with regulatory authorities but one irate Crikey tipper has
explained what sort of dodgy stuff Intermix is known for:

You know those insidious lines of code covertly inserted
into your computer without your knowledge or consent – also known as
adware or spyware – that track your bit-stream travels? Well guess who
is a major source of that code on the internet? Intermix Media Inc.

I utterly despise spyware and so should any computer user who goes
online. It is grand central for the dark and creepy world of internet
bottom feeders who report on your every keystroke. It also needs time
to report, slows down your machine and, once loaded, is almost
impossible to remove.

I cannot get rid of Claria for example – which is a benign version of
spyware compared with Intermix. I use spy washers to keep those bottom
fishers off my hard drive. But they keep coming back. They are
indestructible.

Intermix just paid a massive fine – almost $10 million dollars – for
secretly loading spyware on to their users’ machines… prior to the News
Corp acquisition.

Here’s the scary downside for all web based chronicles who accept
advertising – if say News Corp buys space on the Crikey website, its
ad could easily contain tracking software which identifies the user.
Bingo, privacy violated. News Corp could track not only me, but also get a
hold of your subscriber database.

Call me paranoid but I won’t be visiting any News Corp websites any time soon.

CRIKEY: This sounds a little overly gloomy as Rupert is most interested in Intermix’s www.myplace.com
lifestyle portal and networking site, but the spyware may feature as
News Corp’s release points out that “Intermix augments its content
properties through its analytical optimisation e-commerce division –
Alena.”

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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