The definition of "spyware" is a hot potato topic in some areas. Considering that certain companies are looking to sue anyone who refers to their products as spyware, it's no surprise that there's some debate over the issue. In the past, we've tried to break out the various issues related to spyware. Part of the problem is in the name itself. "Spyware" implies that the problem with the software is that it watches what you're doing all the time. While that is something of a problem, the real issue that annoys so many people is that these products are installed surreptitiously either with no notification or unclear and misleading notification. So, it's a bit amusing to read about one such company's defense to an announced investigation from Eliot Spitzer's office. The NY Attorney General's office makes it clear that the problem they have with the company, Intermix, is that its toolbar is often "installed by users without sufficient notice or consent." That is, it's the installation issue that's the problem. However, the company responds by focusing on the other issue, saying: "The company's toolbar and redirect applications do not collect information about a person's web surfing habits or otherwise collect or transmit any personal information about users." That's great... but that's not what they're being accused of doing anyway.
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