Spyware a forbidden word

According to this Slashdot article Gator is going after websites who refer to it’s “product” as spyware.

From their privacy policy:

We don’t know who our users are…

TGC does not know the identity of GAIN-Supported Software users. We do not transmit to our servers personally identifiable information like email addresses, last name, street addresses, or phone numbers. Nor do we have any other sensitive or personal financial information, such as credit card numbers, login IDs, passwords or bank account numbers. Any such information entered into any TGC GAIN-Supported Software application (such as the GatorSM eWallet) will remain on the personal computer upon which it was entered, and will not be sent to our servers.

Yet it also notes information they DO collect:

  • Some of the Web pages viewed
  • The amount of time spent at some Web sites
  • Response to GAIN Ads
  • Standard web log information (excluding IP Addresses) and system settings
  • What software is on the personal computer
  • First name, country, city, and five digit ZIP code
  • Non-personally identifiable information on Web pages and forms
  • Software usage characteristics and preferences

So we have a product, that’s undoubtedly hidden during installation. I always review downloads before installing. I’ve been doing this for years, and install hundreds of products to try a year. I’ve been fooled more than once. Despite being on the lookout. If they fool me, they fool casual users as well. It’s clearly not marked. And how many people have we all seen with this garbage on their computer, and they have no idea where it comes from? If Gator were honestly informing people prior to installation in a manner which could be understood, people would know.

Then the product, which claims to know nothing about the user, also collects enough information (by their own privacy policy’s admission) to identify me.

So a software product, installed without users consent is spying on me. Hmm. Isn’t that the definition of spyware?

These guys make dot com businesses look bad. A few bad apples makes the whole orchard look rotten. And it’s not all rotten. Just a few bad apples such as these. I hope the courts eventually cut down the tree, and burn it.

Sidenote: There are several editions of the privacy policy, depending on the version. Yep, that’s not an attempt to deceive the end user.