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Privacy watchdogs have slapped a health warning on the latest version of AOL's client software, AOL 9.0.

StopBadware.org, an academic project supported by the likes of Sun and Google that aims to establish a neighbourhood watch-style scheme to put pressure on purveyors of unsavoury programs, has taken the unusual step of classifying AOL's software as potentially damaging badware.

AOL's inclusion of bundled software apps and lack of transparency over additional installed components earned it the negative label.

"AOL has a long and storied history of being a leader in the fight against badware. AOL plainly does not belong in the same category as the all-too-prevalent garden variety badware providers. But the free version of AOL 9.0 that we tested, in our view, does not live up to the company's rich legacy," explained John Palfrey, co-director of StopBadware.org, in a posting on StopBadware.org's blog.

StopBadware.org wants AOL to be more upfront about the software components its client installs. It also wants the internet giant to provide an easier way of declining to install these components or of removing them once they are installed.

The pressure group says it has been pleased with AOL's reaction to its criticism, which is based on a preliminary analysis of AOL's software. AOL said it would review StopBadware.org's recommendations.

"No company has done more to fight malware than AOL," AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein told News.com. "We're reviewing the suggestions made in the report, and we are taking steps to address them, as they mostly involve minor UI issues. ®

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