Major download sites get tough on spyware
Some of the largest names on the Internet have come together to crack down on the spread of adware and spyware through piggybacking hidden software along with legitimate downloads.
The companies, which include Yahoo!, AOL, Verizon and CNet Networks - which operates the large downloads.com software library - have agreed to establish industry standards for monitoring and enforcing good behaviour on sites which offer downloadable software.
A new code of practice maintained by the Truste independent online trust body will mean that sites that offer downloads will have to state clearly if the download contains adware or trackware. In addition, the site must inform the user of the types of advertising that will be displayed, any personal information that will be tracked and collected. The site should also warn of any change in the user settings. Finally, the user must have to opt in with their permission before the download can begin.
Once the software is installed, the publisher must offer an easy uninstall procedure with clear instructions. Any ads have to be labelled with the name of the adware program. Any publisher who wants to take part in the programme will have to maintain separate advertising inventory for users of certified applications.
It is thought unlikely that the spyware companies are going to be leaping for joy at these new guidelines. To enforce compliance, the major portals involved in the Trusted Download Program will publish a 'whitelist' of certified applications. Any application that is not on the whitelist risks being ..errr..blacklisted by the portals that will severely restrict their reach.
However, many spyware applications will not go through legitimate high profile sources as they propagate p2p networks, warez and pornography sites. The portals can claim they have banished spyware from their own servers even if it continues to flourish elsewhere.
Truste says the programme is expected to launch in beta form early in the New Year.
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