Who Gets To Define What Spyware Is?

from the the-user? dept

One thing that's been clear for a long time is that spyware/adware companies and consumers define spyware completely differently. Most consumers seem pissed off over one main point: this stuff gets installed secretly without them realizing what it does. In the past, adware companies would say that the real problem is the "spying" and would then claim they didn't do that. They might be changing their minds a bit. We've recently been talking about how Claria's attempt to change isn't really a change at all. All they did was get rid of pop-ups. They still install secretly in too many cases and they still are doing things on the backend that make people uncomfortable. However, in yet another article talking about the Claria makeover, it's implied that this is okay because: "nobody much minds behind-the-scenes spying." This is symptomatic of the industry thinking that they get to define what does and doesn't annoy people. The latest example? 180Solutions is suing Zone Labs for giving their software a spyware designation. This is nothing new. Other companies have sued over the spyware label in the past as well. But, what it comes down to is that it should be the user's call what they do on their computer and how they define stuff. The industry doesn't get to decide what people want on their own computers, and telling anti-spyware companies that they can't point out that many people dislike these products and don't know how they were installed just makes it seem like they have more to hide. The answer isn't to sue anti-spyware companies but to stop making software that pisses off users.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Joe Snuffy, Dec 1st, 2005 @ 2:11pm

    No Subject Given

    They should just combine the two (ad/spy) to a single name: "CRAPware" I don't know anybody that wants it and most people don't know if they have it. I guess it is kinda like herpes. Maybe they shoudl call it all "VDware"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2005 @ 2:12pm

    No Subject Given

    Thomas Hesse, President of Sony's Global Digital Business, literally says: "Most people, I think, don't even know what a [it] is, so why should they care about it?"

    ...too funny!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    bmac (profile), Dec 1st, 2005 @ 2:35pm

    I'll decide

    I'll take the job if no one else wants it...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Abs, Dec 1st, 2005 @ 3:09pm

    Amen that

    First of all, I think spywares are those which get installed without the user knowing it. 180solutions has installed a lot of programs without the users content. So, its a spyware or a junkware.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Rikko, Dec 1st, 2005 @ 3:32pm

      Re: Amen that

      That's a really hard call to make.
      Is the Adobe Gamma Loader spyware? When I install Photoshop I don't ask for it. That Winzip Quick Pick? How about those Quicktime and RealPlayer system tray apps?
      Admittedly some of these you *can* opt out of on install, but assume for a moment they aren't.

      Ok, they obviously aren't spyware by any sensible definition.

      But where do we draw the line? Is it just a bundled application that isn't related to what we installed? Anything that calls home without permission?

      Legislative headache.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        shirk, Dec 1st, 2005 @ 5:36pm

        Re: rikko

        Well, people in government offices should be able to tell. Sure, there could be no real law written because it is (whatever type of bs)ware when it gets on without you knowing, or having a choice. And on top of that, it decreases your computer's performance, gathers any kind of information(even from just cookies), can run as a stand-alone program, tries to assault you with ads even while your internet connection is off, or even wants something inappropriate of you or potentially illegal. There is no doubt that there is adware which gives you pop-ups about porn and even contains the full image of this porn within the ad, and if you're underage you just got screwed over by something you didn't want to happen! Or even a mature adult with a spouse who will put you in the dog house for something he/she has no proof of you doing or not doing, other than your word.
        I mean how do you define everything wrong a program MIGHT do that CAN qualify it as spyware/adware/the good suggestions for new names on this page such as malware. If an anti malware company wants to classify a program as what it is, and no one is against it but the company that designed the program- who is the bad guy? Yes the guy covering his ass and getting all huffy-puffy about people being saved from his good programming certainly is the good guy. No doubt those darn anti-malware companies are trying to make us happy now, only to betray us later...

        If a legit anti-malware company could simply merge with the government so that the government could have better insight on malware, perhaps they can illegalize malware as defined by their database in the anti-malware program. Who would sue in defense of their malware then, at the risk of going to jail? Who would then, still be a proud malware programmer daring enough to break the law just to rain unhappiness on people with computers, while gaining nothing in return by doing so. How much easier could it be, I mean anyone computer savy can tell what malware is and what it isn't. So why can't a skillful, trustworthy anti-malware company be able to correctly guide the government in their fight against malware? Sure, I suppose developing new programs not qualified on the list may be a way of exploiting the loop hole to this idea. But much like trojan related viruses, the way the malware is programmed should be an illegal part as well, so that the same malware company can't keep spurting out the same program with a new name while the old ones are becoming illegal. Who would have the time or the interest in creating a new peice of crap from scratch almost on a daily basis?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Wyndle, Dec 2nd, 2005 @ 11:27am

          Re: rikko

          This is a clouded situation to begin with, but everyone seems to have missed a major problem with how software is defined and controlled. The internet is not limited to a single country. I would take unilateral support from every country in the world to effectively eliminate the problem. Yes, there are many devious companies in the United States who write Malware for profit reasons, but what about in Russia, China, the EU?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    BlackCow, Dec 1st, 2005 @ 3:46pm

    No Subject Given

    I H8 AD/SPYWARE SO MUCH! Luckly it hasent been a problem anymore sence ive been useing firefox. It used to piss me off so much tho! I think adware/spyware companies should go to jail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Arnie, Dec 1st, 2005 @ 3:58pm

    spyware def..

    I think that "malware" is a better term for most of it. I have to maintain a lot of computers and I know first had how a lot of this stuff messes up peoples computers. And I know that a lot of it doesn't even have a decent uninstaller, since they dont want it removed anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    stephen pray, Dec 1st, 2005 @ 8:15pm

    No Subject Given

    what would some of these cocksuckers do if i come to their home and paint my name on the side of it, or stick a tracking device on their car? the pc belongs to me. it is private property and nobody has any right to put some device on it that benefits them. whether or not it harms me strikes me as a moot point. however most do a great deal of harm.
    as far as popups go, recently i called a local restaurant chain that had been plastering me with popups and said i wouldnt patronize them again.. unfortunately the guy who gives a shit was off that day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Kiko Artajo, Feb 28th, 2006 @ 9:23am

      You got it dead right!!!

      You are one of the few people that had the balls to say it str8 out. Our machines are just that, private property. They sure as hell did'nt pay for it, they sure as hell aren't paying my sky-high internet bills, so why in the hell do I have to allow them to even be on my machine, much less gather data on me? If they want it that bad, let them cut me a check every month for the privelidge. If they are going through all the trouble to write this crap, our personal information must be worth something right? Why should we not get a cut?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Boo, Dec 2nd, 2005 @ 1:07am

    Easy to know, hard to define

    Where the line is crossed isnt as obvious as you might think. I would be tempted to define them as follows, and close the book on the matter.

    Spyware: any peice of software which gathers information from a users computer and sends it to a 3rd party without the user's knowledge or consent.

    Addware: any peice of client side software that presents the user with unwanted adds

    Malware: any spyware or adware that is loaded to the user's computer without the users knowledge or consent. (excluding other more traditional viruses etc. from the definition)

    Seems pretty straight forward, but where is the line drawn... it a greyscale from cookies for storing user preferences to keylogging root kit. What about normalware that sends version information to a server without bothering the user? What about those imbedded adds in Opera - I certainly dont want to see them! Could that be classed as addware?

    There needs to be a clear set of published guidlines based on
    1. Intention of software
    2. Disruption to normal running processes
    3. Level of deception
    and a body set up to officially classify applications which is beyond question.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Andrew Strasser, Dec 2nd, 2005 @ 1:23am

      Re: Easy to know, hard to define

      They were initally called parasites before the big boom of everyone learning about them. No one has use for them they are desgined to make your computer run slower and for them to basically steal your bandwidth for their purposes. It's kinda like someone coming in your house with no invitation or notice and taking a glass of water. Who cares about the glass of water, but what the heck are you doing in my house and why didn't you ask first?

      Parasites won't go away is the biggest problem because in all reality it means more money for computer manufacturers. How many people get full of parasites clogged overloaded and have 0 zip nada copies of their Operating System to totally restart their computers? How many of those just buy a new computer for 500-1000 bucks rather than spend 150 to have their old slow outdated computer that's three giga hertz slower than the new one fixed.

      Too much money involved we learn to cope or someone learns to make a better immune system to these parasites because there isn't one on the market pay or free that effectivly works on all of them. You also have to take into account that if you use say comcast for your broadband needs automatically you get parasites that cannot be removed without losing your connection to the internet. There is a fix for this but they won't tell you unless you harass them. Many major companies add parasites to their software now and there is no way around that because in order to have their software you have to agree to take full responsibility for it's content.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Chris H, Dec 2nd, 2005 @ 8:29am

        Re: Easy to know, hard to define

        "You also have to take into account that if you use say comcast for your broadband needs automatically you get parasites that cannot be removed without losing your connection to the internet."

        This is news to me. I was a Comcast subscriber and now use Verizon DSL. Neither one of these broadband companies has forced me to install any sort of software. There is a setup disk that comes with my Verizon router to configure my router and connection but once I'm done setting up, it never runs again and can be easily removed.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    shnot, Dec 2nd, 2005 @ 10:08am

    180solutions

    if 180solutions thinks that people don't mind being spied upon, if they think no one minds having a bunch of crap installed on their computer that doesn't do anything for the user beyond slowing their computer and connection (WHAT A HELP, THANKS GUYS)...well, go tell them what you think about their business on their blog.
    http://blog.180solutions.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Bob, Dec 2nd, 2005 @ 10:04pm

    Definition

    I get to define it, since it's my computer, thus my property.

    Software is a program that tells you what it does, and makes no bones about it, before you install it.

    Spyware is a program that does not tell you what it does before you install it, tries to hide itself or is misleading in its operation or description.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    surgy, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 8:35pm

    Ok Guys It's simple. to me at least.

    ok, well (in todays "Blackbox" type of thinking) it might be hard to tell whats necisary and whats not, what needs to be consented and what doesnt. But the simple point here is; I bought my pc under the understanding that i was buying it and that it whould become MY physicle property until the time comes when i want to get rid of it.

    With that said, i will be bold enough to say that ANY information added to my computer without my knowledge should be a crime. And me and most of the people i know whould willingly kick someones ass over putting software on there pc without there knowledge. the problem is, we dont know who is putting it there or when. just simply that its there.

    I mean this shouldnt even be a question. If you go to a body shop and have you wrecked fender fixed with a new one are they then allowed to change your radio and relign your seats?

    if you have movers come in and put in a new stove, are they allowed to change your countertops? pet your dog? take your child to the park?

    NO, if it is yours, and they dont have permission, it is your constitutional right to protect it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    surgy, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 8:38pm

    Ok Guys It's simple. to me at least.

    ok, well (in todays "Blackbox" type of thinking) it might be hard to tell whats necisary and whats not, what needs to be consented and what doesnt. But the simple point here is; I bought my pc under the understanding that i was buying it and that it whould become MY physicle property until the time comes when i want to get rid of it.

    With that said, i will be bold enough to say that ANY information added to my computer without my knowledge should be a crime. And me and most of the people i know whould willingly kick someones ass over putting software on there pc without there knowledge. the problem is, we dont know who is putting it there or when. just simply that its there.

    I mean this shouldnt even be a question. If you go to a body shop and have you wrecked fender fixed with a new one are they then allowed to change your radio and relign your seats?

    if you have movers come in and put in a new stove, are they allowed to change your countertops? pet your dog? take your child to the park?

    NO, if it is yours, and they dont have permission, it is your constitutional right to protect it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This