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.

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  1. identicon
    Boo, 2 Dec 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.

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