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Microsoft and Claria: together at last?

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How can a company that supposedly bases its software and policies on "Trustworthy Computing" even think about purchasing one of the absolutely worst spyware companies operating on the Net?

This is absolutely outrageous. I don't care what sorts of marketing data Claria has to offer Microsoft. That data was obtained through subterfuge, fakery, and a blatant disregard for users who don't know any better (for instance, a lack of uninstallers makes it impossible for the average user to get rid of this crap). It is tainted, both in terms of the actual value of the data and the morality of the process. Trustworthy Computing? A focus on security? Listening to customers? Bah. It is an insult, an absolute slap in the face to all Windows users, security pros, and Netizens, for Microsoft to even consider using its money to reward Claria Corporation with an acquisition.

But that slap in the face has been followed up, evidently, by a kick somewhere else a bit lower in the anatomy. Researchers have recently reported that Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware has downgraded Claria's garbage from "quarantine," and now recommends that users "ignore" its presence on their PCs!

By the way, it appears that Microsoft has downgraded spyware made by several other companies as well, including WhenU, Webhancer, eZula.TopText, and New.net, all of which are absolute scourges on folks' Windows machines. And they've all been This makes things even worse, and really exposes just how committed Microsoft is to customers' security and privacy. In pursuit of more info about users, Microsoft will use its cash to buy Claria, one of the worst spyware companies online, and meanwhile reassure users of its anti-spyware software that Claria's spyware can now be ignored? Honestly, this is just beyond the pale.

Microsoft has finally responded to the chorus of denunciations by issuing a public statement about the changes to Windows AntiSpyware. In that statement, Microsoft admits that after Claria contacted it, "adjustments [were] made to the classification of Claria software in order to be fair and consistent with how Windows AntiSpyware (Beta) handles similar software from other vendors".

Great. What were those adjustments? What did Claria tell Microsoft? How exactly does Claria fit into the "Analysis approach and categories" that Microsoft's anti-spyware software uses? Your guess is as good as mine. Microsoft ain't talking to us peons. We're just users. It's our computer, we're running the software, but we don't get to know how the software functions.

Microsoft, I really thought you were improving. I honestly believed that you were going to use Windows AntiSpyware to improve the lives of your customers. Now I find out that it was all just manipulations and lies. You still have a chance to do the right thing, Microsoft. Don't buy Claria, or any other spyware company, and do tell users of your anti-spyware software the truth about the garbage ruining their computers. It's the only ethical, right thing to do. As for me, I'm going to hold off recommending your Windows AntiSpyware until you clarify matters. From my perspective, until you change, that's the only ethical, right thing I can do.

Scott Granneman is a senior consultant for Bryan Consulting Inc. in St. Louis. He specializes in Internet Services and developing Web applications for corporate, educational, and institutional clients.

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