The intrusive use of advertising-supported software, known as spyware, has been slammed by Dealgroupmedia, a leading UK online marketing agency, as an increasingly significant and unacceptable invasion of privacy.
The condemnation comes as several anti-spyware bills are being put before the US Congress, one of which threatens malicious spyware authors with criminal penalties.
Microsoft, which estimates that spyware is behind half of all PC crashes, is also planning to upgrade the security features of Windows XP to ward off the unwanted programmes.
Spyware is placed on someone’s PC without their knowledge or consent and can be used to gather information from the user’s machine, monitor online activity and transmit it back to the originator, often an advertiser.
Dealgroupmedia chief operating officer Nicky Iapino says: “Security companies estimate that the infestation of spyware has risen tenfold in the past year. The entire practice is unacceptable to legitimate advertisers and marketers. Apart from the very obvious moral issues surrounding spyware, we also have a responsibility to our clients to keep abreast of changes in the market and to act accordingly in working only with the best-of-breed sites that comply with our terms of business.”
According to the privacy policies of the companies involved, there will be no sensitive or identifying data collected from the user’s system and the user remains anonymous. But, says Iapino, it remains a fact that the user’s PC is sending information about themselves and their surfing habits to a remote location, which is an invasion of privacy.
Iapino states that Dealgroupmedia’s network is spyware-free. “We don’t condone spyware and we continually monitor and investigate any occurrence of spyware within our network. Publishers using spyware are removed. This has always been our position on spyware, but due to the increasing use of spyware technology, we feel that it is appropriate to adopt an official policy that will be published on our website in the coming weeks.”
Robert Dwek, editor firstname.lastname@example.org