Microsoft To Become a Big-Time Spyware Vendor?

by Preston Gralla

Microsoft portrays itself as being in the forefront of fighting spyware, going so far as to buy an anti-spyware software company, tweak the software, and then make it available for free.



So why is it negotiating to buy the much-critized adware company Claria?



According to a report last week in the New York Times, Microsoft has been negotiating to buy Claria for up to $500 million. Claria, for those not familiar with the company, was formerly known as Gator until it changed its name because of the bad publicity the company received because of its controversial ad-delivering practices. Claria has been targeted by privacy groups and has been sued by a number of companies, including the New York Times.



Why is Microsoft considering making a deal with Claria? In a word, money. The Times said that Microsoft sees Claria as a quick way to compete with Google for ad revenue.



Apparently, though, there is a faction within Microsoft trying to kill the deal. Let's hope they win. It's hard to believe that Microsoft would want to become one of the biggest purveyors of adware on the planet, while at the same time claiming it's trying to fight spyware. If the company make the deal, it'll be the most short-sighted decision the company ever made --- and one of the worst ones.


What do you think about Microsoft negotiating to buy Claria?


7 Comments

jwenting
2005-07-06 00:26:50
think positive thoughts
If a reputable company like Microsoft with an active stance against spyware gains control over Claria/Gator they may be in a unique position to remove one of the largest spyware systems from the net.
I've nothing against adware per se, and probably neither do most people.
What people have problems with is the adware phoning home with (potentially) privacy sensitive information taken from their systems. But adware has no fundamental need to do so, it's an extra revenue stream for the adware company that by tapping into that stream becomes a spyware company.


By changing the behaviour of the adware from scrounging peoples' computers for things like browser histories to simply displaying ads that are targeted to the likely userbase of the application (similar to bannerads on websites including this one) there's no more need to spy on your users.


Of course we'd all like to see an end to the massive amounts of advertising people are constantly subjected to but unless you're willing to pay a fair price for the products and services you receive the people delivering those products and services will have to use other means of generating an income for themselves and selling advertising is an age old way of doing that.


P.S. on the page I got to post this there were 7 ads for different products and services, only one of them for something delivered by the owner of this site...

peter_g_22
2005-07-06 04:26:59
Cynical ?
If I didn't know better I'd say that Micro$oft were aware of their potential downturn in revenue from selling software and were planning to make up the shortfall by selling "market research" data.
georgelien
2005-07-06 06:32:42
Can We Spell?
Can We Spell S-O-N-Y? The conflict of interests within Microsoft will eat up the company as the conflict of interests within Sony had taken down the once the consumer electronic gaint from the top of the world.
gillmore
2005-07-06 08:28:45
knowing and serving customers
On the surface, Claria seems to be higly involved in online market research, including online user analytics. They also have products dealing with search logic, browser security, and an e-wallet (remember Microsoft's attempt?)


http://www.claria.com/products/software/


As Microsoft moves forward with their own AntiSpyware software and their Trustworthy Computing initiative (which was/is much more than a slogan), it doesn't seem unreasonable that Claria has people and products that Miscrosoft can use to make its existing products better.


Microsoft is just as much a marketing company as a software company. The many people I've met fromh both their Redmond and Silicon Valley locations are honestly interested in knowing their customers and providing products and services that meet their needs and are willing to pay for.

wd8pki@bex.net
2005-07-06 17:22:19
Microsoft
Looks like Microsoft speaks with forked tongue.
Larry
ReggieB
2005-07-07 01:55:16
think positive thoughts
Yes, the worst part of Adaware is the "phoning home" aspect, and in particular the diffuculty of distinguishing sending back marketing information from sending back keystrokes and information that can be used maliciously. The methods Adaware uses for this is very difficult to secure - unless you do the sensible thing and block it all.


However, my experience of how adaware's "simply displaying ads" process works is that it is intrusive, annoying and another easy way for people to click on links they shouldn't. The common example being a pop up saying Adaware was detected, and click on a link to get a fix (which is itself more adaware if not worse).


Advertising is an annoyance that I can put up with in the appropriate places (such as margins of web pages), but popping it up without prompting and redirecting my home page is not appropriate. It is akin to an advertiser waking me in my bed and thrusting an advert in my face.


The only way to manage adaware is to remove and/or block it all. Adaware is the opposite of money - even when its good its bad.

peter_g_22
2005-07-07 08:43:22
/. reports "Windows AntiSpyware Downgrades Claria Detections"
What a surprise.. got to give the new "baby" the best start in life I suppose !


http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/05/07/07/1234217.shtml?tid=158&tid=172&tid=201