Spyware :: Information :: Issues
Spyware has caused concern with many people questioning its privacy, security and legal issues. In many cases it's worrying exactly how much spyware programs can invade our privacy. In reality it's very hard to find out exactly what information these program gather. Even after reading the EULA (End User Licence Agreement) it can be very confusing. This can be even worse if a program bundles these as third party software, it can involve reading multiple disclaimers (not something that people tend to take a long time doing before installing a program). The security issues are clear, many spyware and adware programs tend to self-update. This means they download and execute potentially dangerous code which could harm your system without any kind of warning, this normally happens silently. The problems here can be very serious as many of the EULA's that I've read apply to this version (being installed) only, not any updated versions. They often state this and say that the user should check back and read the disclaimer every so often in case of change. There are two problems with this, firstly the program will have probably installed before they could get to read the new updated disclaimer, and secondly who even reads the disclaimer fully once let alone continually rereading it? Many people have questioned the legal aspects of program behaving in this way, but because of the fact that they do mention their intensions in the EULA somewhere, they can get away with it legally. Even if it's purposely buried deep into the disclaimer or very difficult for a non-law person to understand it, it's still valid. However, only recently (July 25th 2003) and new law is being proposed (in America) that will force companies to clearly state what the programs will actually do. The act is currently entitled the "Safeguard Against Privacy Invasions Act".
Other issues to consider are stability problems this program may cause and bandwidth consumption. It's very clear that many of these programs don't go through adequate testing procedures before the public end up with it installed. In fact, many people often discover spyware for the first time because of this. The questions "Why is my computer going so slow?" and "Why is it continually crashing?" may not only be down to the operating system. More often than not, these questions can normally be resolved by informing them about spyware and adware programs and advising them to download a spyware removal program, and see what it finds. Whereas some spyware programs may be stable and efficient, many users have multiple spyware programs running, each "stealing" the cpu time, and many can notice a real difference to system performance after they've been removed. There are also bandwidth issues to consider. Where a fast connection might not be degraded too much, and dial-up connection can suffer, and you are indirectly paying for the advertisements. Pop-up adverts (with graphics) can take up a fair amount of bandwidth, especially if they are frequently appearing.
The only advise that can be given to users at present is to read the EULA fully. Don't click "yes" or "I Accept" until you really do understand what this program may do to your system. Any program that does mention installation of third-party software, should make you very cautious. Find out what the third-party software is, you may need to find and read their agreement as well if it's not included.