Chapell & Associates

Monday, September 19, 2005

Critics: Ask Jeeves Silently Serves Software

TechNewsWorld September 13, 2005
Anti-spyware and other security software makers are saying the butler did it, claiming search player is installing software on users' machines without properly notifying them or confirming their consent. The issue has caused questions about whether the software and features Ask Jeeves is delivering its users is adware, spyware or otherware, but analysts agreed the improper notification about the software -- reportedly hidden deep in a user agreement document -- is bad policy at best, highlighting the need for more user awareness and an upfront approach from companies that may be cluttering PCs for their own advertising profits through partners and third parties.

The Chapell View
If memory serves me, Sunbelt had recently issued a report on WhenU's practices as well. A few people had asked me if WhenU had paid Sunbelt to conduct the evaluation and subsequent report. This might make sense, given that the company had enlisted noted privacy expert (and good friend) Richard Purcell to perform an evaluation of their practices roughly a year ago.

However, the more I think about it, the stronger I believe that Sunbelt is bearing the cost of these evaluations. For one thing, its GREAT PR to be able to launch a new evaluation once every couple of months. This issue remains red hot, and so you don't have to look very hard to find a newspaper or other publication that is wiling to print a headline that says "LARGE MEDIA COMPANY IS DISTRIBUTING SPYWARE."

I may not agree with everything they say, but some of these anti-spyware companies are doing a great job of broadcasting their message - broadcasting it to the media, to consumers, to advocacy groups, and to legislators. I may not agree with that message, but I absolutely must tip me cap to them for their ability to take it to the streets - and to the proverbial hole. They are building up a considerable reservoir of credibility on the Spyware issue. And if/when the online space is able to come up with an agreed upon set of best practices for Adware, then the Anti-Spyware guys will just move the debate over to third party cookies. In fact, they've already done that to some extent.

And btw, we're almost into Q4, and I'm still waiting for the online media types to fashion a reasonable response to the cookie debate. I know that SafeCount is taking steps in that direction, but these things take time, and the bleeding is happening now. And meanwhile, seems like almost every week I find out about another use of semi-anonymous data, or the combination of PII and anonymous data that makes me cringe. This isn't going to go away on its own, folks.
posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 19, 2005

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