Claria Spyware Controversy
One company that has been at the center of the spyware controversy for years is Claria Corporation, well known for serving targeted advertisements to more than 40 million computer users. Critics have stated that this vendor does not fully disclose to users that data is being collected and how it is to be used. Many of these issues were found in the Kazaa file sharing program, an application that includes the Claria software. In this article, we will overview the Claria program and touch on a few of the characteristics that constitute spyware.
Upon installing the program, the installation wizard states that Claria will display advertisements based on the sites a user visits on the internet. The wizard does not state that it will monitor every site a user visits and report that data back to the vendor's database as long as the software is functioning. However, this information is clarified in a detailed EULA (End-User License Agreement), which is read by very few users. The EULA gives Claria the right to track and report back information regarding all of the programs on your computer, along with the first four digits of your credit card number, allowing them to know what institution you bank at. The installation wizard does not disclose the fact that the monitoring function of the application may also run when the useful part of the program is shutdown or disabled.
Another huge concern of the public was the fact that the users were forbidden to remove Claria software with anti-virus or anti-spyware software. According to the EULA, the only way a user was permitted to remove the program was by using the "Add/Remove Programs" utility in the Microsoft Windows operating system.
Additionally, the EULA
does not fully disclose as to what data the Claria Corporation actually
collects. Many users were outraged that
the program captured sensitive data that could be potentially used to commit
internet crimes. Scott Eagle, the
company's Chief Marketing Officer, claims that the only information Claria
collects now is behavior of "commercial intent" - referring to product research
and shopping online. Eagle went on to
claim that the data is filed by an anonymous computer identification number and
does not collect email addresses, usernames, zipcodes or complete credit card
Removal of Claria
Like many types of spyware and adware, the Claria software doesn't completely uninstall after using the "Add/Remove programs" utility. It leaves behind various files and programs such as GAIN, that lead back to the company's network, along with several fragments that can only be cleaned up by a registry cleaning application. Scott Eagle states that GAIN is a separate add-delivery program that only collects non-personal user data and automatically uninstalls itself after all traces of Claria are completely removed.
Once coined as the king of spyware, Claria exited the adware business in 2006, putting an end to it's pop-up ad campaign. PersonalWeb and Axon, Claria's new products, offer personalized web pages to users while providing them with advertisements and relative content based on searching habits and web browsing behavior. While the company stresses a huge difference in how these programs collect data, they sound rather similar to the spyware that stirred up major concerns. In order to reduce the chance of having your personal data collected, the best advice is to stay away from products by the Claria Corporation.