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Spyware, “adware”, and tracking

The term adware frequently refers to any software which displays advertisements, whether or not it does so with the user’s consent. Programs such as the Eudora mail client display advertisements as an alternative to shareware registration fees. These classify as “adware” in the sense of advertising-supported software, but not as spyware. They do not operate surreptitiously or mislead the user.

Many of the programs frequently classified as spyware function as adware in a different sense: their chief observed behavior consists of displaying advertising. Claria Corporation’s Gator Software and Exact Advertising’s BargainBuddy provide examples of this sort of program. Visited Web sites frequently install Gator on client machines in a surreptitious manner, and it directs revenue to the installing site and to Claria by displaying advertisements to the user. The user experiences a large number of pop-up advertisements.

Other spyware behaviors, such as reporting on websites the user visits, frequently accompany the displaying of advertisements. Monitoring web activity aims at building up a marketing profile on users in order to sell “targeted” advertisement impressions. The prevalence of spyware has cast suspicion upon other programs that track Web browsing, even for statistical or research purposes. Some observers describe the Alexa Toolbar, an Internet Explorer plug-in published by Amazon.com, as spyware (and some anti-spyware programs report it as such) although many users choose to install it.

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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