Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Spyware: the wrong attitude

Via Meredith is this Wired News article about people who don’t mind spyware. To summarise, users claim that spyware is either a necessity to allow for free software:

But some users of iMesh didn’t seem to be troubled by the actions of Marketscore. Users at iMesh forums chided those who complained, posting messages stating that “without spyware there’s no such thing as free software.”

Or, the spyware offers features that are useful to them:

“The users knew they had the application on their computers, and they knew exactly what it did,” said Mullaney. “They said they’d opted to install it on their computers because they wanted the eWallet application that stores passwords and credit card numbers, entering them into web forms with one click. The users said you have to get the adware if you want the eWallet.”

Oh dear. Those arguments would be valid if there were indeed no alternatives, but, alas there are. Take the first example – putting up with spyware so that one can use iMesh. Why not dump iMesh and use another free P2P client which doesn’t contain spyware? eMule and Shareaza are both very good, WinMX is adequate and I’ve yet to find a spyware-infested BitTorrent client.
And as for programs like Gator, most web browsers will remember details for you and there are programs like Roboform that can do the job too.
No user should have to put up with spyware. If a program insists on installing spyware before you can use it, then it’s time to find a new program. There are alternatives out there.

4 Comments

  1. I find it strange that anyone would want to use ad/spyware. I find adware ugly, intrusive, and it’s a pain trying to download image ads on my 56K connection. And I wouldn’t trust spyware as far as I could throw it.
    Open Source and Free (as in GNU, not freeware) software directories can get you apps better in many respects than the commercial apps that some are based on. Some you have to compile yourself, but it’s a snap if you have GCC, and you’ll have a build optimised for your machine rather than a generic i386 or i586 build.
    My tip, to anyone who thinks that ad/spyware is a good idea, is to avoid using the likes of Tucows and Download.com (ad/spyware magnets), and try out some OS/Free software. In short, the developers of ad/spyware need the money to motivate them, whereas the developers of OS and Free software don’t – the result being better software (IMHO).

  2. “The users knew they had the application on their computers, and they knew exactly what it did,” said Mullaney. “They said they’d opted to install it on their computers because they wanted the eWallet application that stores passwords and credit card numbers, entering them into web forms with one click. The users said you have to get the adware if you want the eWallet.”
    OMG, that comment is wrong in SO many ways. Firstly I doubt they know EXACTLY what they’re installing. Most people usually just click “next, next”.
    Secondly, who wants adware? Seriously, people hate the popups they get in IE (solution: switch to a better browser, Firefox prefered!), multiply that up a few times with adware.

  3. Argh. Ok I thought I was being stupid, but no, I was correct the first time. This is what I was putting until I thought you said ADWARE, not SPYWARE. I underestimated the stupidity of people out there!
    People are putting in their credit card details into a program that sends information over the internet (and I doubt it very that much that it’s encrypted) to the company…seriously people…WHAT ARE YOU THINKING.

  4. Spyware is not good, no matter the wrapping

    In a Wired article there seem to be very confused people who actually think Spyware is good and useful. Oh dear. Spyware is simply software that installs either with or most often without the user’s knowledge, and gathers information about the user and…