Bundling Does Not Equal Spyware

from the let's-try-this-again dept

No wonder politicians are having so much trouble coming up with a definition of spyware. It seems that lots of people have problems defining the term as well. As we’ve discussed in the past, the real problem with spyware is not necessarily that it watches what you do, but that it gets installed and watches what you do — without you knowing about it. In many (though not all) cases, that’s because it’s bundled with another (usually free) application that you want. However, when you install that app, the fact that you’re installing other apps is often hidden — or if explained, explained in a way that doesn’t let you know what it really does. However, because of the whole bundling aspect, people are starting to associate any software bundling with spyware. That leads to articles where people accuse Google of using spyware tactics to distribute its desktop search app and its toolbar with WinZip — but the details don’t support the charge. It’s clearly displayed in the setup screen and it lets people choose not to install the bundled apps. Also, the purpose of the apps aren’t obfuscated by misleading language. It’s not a spyware tactic by any means — but the fact that so many spyware offerings use similar, if more underhanded, tactics means that such bundling is always going to be looked at suspiciously.

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