A group that monitors software has warned users away from AOL’s free client software on the grounds that it displays 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 Monday, meaning that a dialogue had been opened with the company and that a full “badware” designation was still pending.
The report stated, however, 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.”
StopBadware was founded in part to help consumers spot 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 said it had decided to test the software after several tips and complaints were sent to its Web site.
“All we’re asking is that you tell people upfront what you’re doing,” said John Palfrey Jr., executive director of the Berkman Center.
Andrew Weinstein, an AOL spokesman, said that many of the problems cited by Palfrey’s group were already being addressed in planned upgrades of the client software, which are due out next month, but he added that the company believed the problems to be minor, “nonsubstantive” and wholly unmalicious.
Palfrey agreed that the group had found nothing malicious in the AOL installation and added that the company had begun to fix some of the problems. But he also said that software did not have to be malicious to violate consumer trust.
Fuente: International Herald Tribune, Tom Zeller Jr.