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A Watchdog Group Warns Against Aol’s Free Software


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aoHell is the 'Net on troll training wheels AFAIC most daze. Most of the assorted probem chillin's on the Boards I Staff at are from NetHell, err AOL...


Now? Wow, it is becoming more obvious the folks at aoHell exist to suck your life dry of information.






August 29, 2006

A Watchdog Group Warns Against AOL’s Free Software



Dealing yet another blow to AOL, a leading software watchdog group warned users away from AOL’s free client software yesterday on the ground that it displayed characteristics consistent with “badware.”


The term badware describes a wide array of downloadable applications that try to install extra components on a computer without clearly informing users of what they are or what they will do.


The group, StopBadware.org, posted an “open inquiry” into the AOL software yesterday, meaning that a dialogue has been opened with the company and that a full “badware” designation is still pending.


The report, however, stated that the AOL client software, which provides subscribers with a suite of services, also installed extra software deceptively, altered the Web browser and other computer components without notifying the user, and did not uninstall completely, among other “badware behaviors.”


Similar characteristics are often found in pernicious forms of spyware and adware, often called malware. The StopBadware organization was founded in part to assist consumers in spotting shady software. The group is jointly run by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and the Oxford Internet Institute of Oxford University.


The group received several tips and complaints about the AOL software from users at its Web site, and decided to test it.


“All we’re asking is that you tell people upfront what you’re doing,” said John G. Palfrey Jr., executive director of the Berkman Center.


Andrew Weinstein, an AOL spokesman, said that many of the problems Mr. Palfrey’s group cited were already being addressed in planned upgrades of the client software, due out next month, but added that the company believed the problems to be minor, “nonsubstantive” and wholly unmalicious.


“No one has done more to protect users from malware than AOL,” Mr. Weinstein said.


Mr. Palfrey agreed that the group found nothing malicious in the AOL installation, and added that the company had already begun fixing some of the problems raised. But he also said software did not have to be malicious to violate consumer trust.


“We currently recommend that users do not install the version of AOL software that we tested,” the StopBadware.org Web site read yesterday, “unless the user is comfortable with the level of risk we identify or until the application is updated consistent with the recommendations in this report.”

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