Posterous Starts Automatically Inserting Affiliate Links Into Sites, Forgets To Tell Users

We’ve been tracking super-simple publishing service Posterous for quite a while now, and for the most part they’ve turned us into big fans. Unfortunately, they’ve just committed a fairly serious blunder. In a post earlier today, one Posterous user stumbled across the fact that his site was automatically converting all of his links to affiliate links using VigLink. There isn’t anything sinister about VigLink — the service helps publishers generate revenue without having to manually insert affiliate links themselves, and has received funding from Google Ventures, First Round Capital, and some prominent angel investors. But Posterous neglected to inform its users that it was starting to monetize all of their links, which is a breach of user trust.

Co-founder Sachin Agarwal agrees — in a phone interview he conceded that Posterous should definitely have informed users about the change (they’re currently drafting a statement about the incident). Agarwal says that Posterous has actually been testing the VigLink integration for months, which means the links have gone unnoticed for quite a while. But he says it’s just an experiment, and that Posterous hasn’t decided if it’s going to be keeping them in the long-term (though he agrees they should have informed users regardless).

Agarwal also says that if Posterous does wind up permanently integrating VigLink, users won’t have to take part in the program. And there’s an upside: once they’ve built the infrastructure to support it, Posterous has plans to allow its users to generate revenue from links on their own blogs, which could actually drive more people to start using the publishing platform.

It’s worth pointing out that while VigLink will convert any normal links to affiliate links whenever possible, it will ignore any links that are already connected to affiliate programs (in other words, it doesn’t overwrite existing affiliate links).