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Anti-Spyware Group Targets AOL 9.0 As 'Badware'

Stopbadware.org, which is backed by Google, Sun, and Lenovo, says AOL's client software is "badware" and that users should avoid installing the program because it interferes with computer use and relies on deceptive information practices.
An anti-spyware group on Monday slapped AOL's client software with a "badware" label, and told users to avoid installing the program because it "adds software without disclosure" and "interferes with computer use."

Stopbadware.org, a non-profit group headed by Harvard University and Oxford University, and backed by Google, Sun, and Lenovo, blasted AOL 9.0 for the kind of deceptive installation practices usually reserved for adware and spyware. In the past, Stopbadware.org has limited itself to pegging such dangerous programs as the file-sharing Kazaa peer-to-peer software, fake anti-spyware scanners, and screensavers bundled with Trojan horses and keyloggers.

According to the group's online alert, it considers the AOL software irresponsible for 8 different reasons, among them that it installs software such as the You've Got Pictures screensaver and ViewPoint Media Player without telling the user, that it adds the AOL toolbar to Internet Explorer without adequate disclosure, and that it fails to uninstall completely.

"We currently recommend that users do not install the version of AOL software that we tested, unless the user is comfortable with the level of risk we identify," the organization concluded in its online report.

AOL 9.0 is the free-of-charge software that the Virginia-based Internet service provider hands out to subscribers for connecting to, and accessing the Internet.

"These are all things that we had planned to address in the next version," said AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein, who dismissed StopBadware.org's concerns as technicalities. "Clearly, we're not in the same category as the other types of software they're reviewed," Weinstein added. "We actually protect users from malware with AOL's security software."

According to Weinstein, the issues brought up by StopBadware.org will be corrected in the next major upgrade to the AOL client software, and may be fixed in the current version 9.0 with patch-like fixes. "We're looking at whether we can address these now," he said.

The Stopbadware.org report on AOL 9.0 can be found here.

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