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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Who Killed Gator?

They’ve been talking about it for over a year but now Claria(Formerly GAIN Network/Gator) has officially claimed they are no longer going to use Adware/Spyware to track customer habits. They’ve even gone as far as telling customers to remove the software (More Info). If you go to their Products page, they still list all their products like GotSmiley and Gator eWallet but you have to hunt a little to download them.

As of yesterday, Claria says users won’t be seeing Pop-up adds from the GAIN Network. I bravely downloaded Precision Time to see what would happen.  I surfed around a little and didn’t find any Claria based popups.  I tried syncing up my computer clock and it still worked letting me know my time was off by 13 seconds.  It connected to a time server run by “National Institute of Standards and Technology “. 

Support your local gator hunter

There are some real heros in this story that proved the little guy can make a difference. My hero’s are the folks at PCPitstop.com, Dave Methvin and Rob Cheng.  PC PitStop told the truth about Gator but in September, 2003 Gator filed a lawsuit against PC PitStop for “false advertising, unfair business practices, trade libel, defamation, and tortious interference." The overall result of this lawsuit was to make the online world more aware of the bad practices and deception used by Gator and companies like it. (More Info).  After changing their name to Claria(More Info), the Gator folks thought perhaps they could sell stock in the company but the public said no way. (More Info). More recently Microsoft was in talks to purchase Claria but realized it would be a PR disaster reconsidered (More Info)

Personally, I will never fully trust Claria but I welcome their admission of guilt.  Their business model is still tracking behavior and given the past methods it’s hard to really wish them well.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Joe Seither said...

Bill,

Thanks for the coverage, but a quick correction: GAIN app downloads were disabled June 30 as well.

3:41 PM  
Blogger BillP said...

Hi Joe,

I'm pleased you found your way here. I'm afraid there are still links on the net that point to your applications. It's not enough to change the links on claria.com. As long as your downloads are available on your servers I'm sure you'll have software or web sites linked to them.

I downloaded Precision Time today July 2nd from a link to http://www.precision-time.com/download/. I hope that helps.

Bill

4:52 PM  
Blogger Ben Edelman said...

Bill,

I just downloaded Claria's GotSmiley. www.gotsmiley.com/download . Seems like Claria has not yet fully "disabled" the downloads. Removing the download installers (installer pages, ActiveX bundles, etc.) is the obvious next step, and probably should have been part of Claria's June 30 plan.

But I think Claria's new business has a problem far beyond incomplete removal of GAIN. These days Claria touts its service to consumers on the basis of homepage automatic customization. That's all well and good, but there's a second side to Claria's new business: BehaviorLink tracking of where users go, followd by targeted ads in banners around the web. See http://www.behaviorlink.com/advertiser/ .

Now, even that would arguably be OK, if users granted informed consent, and if Claria were buying banners in the right places. But in fact Claria buys banners in the most unseemly of places. In http://www.benedelman.org/news/101805-1.html , I documented Claria banners in a ContextPlus popup of the Venus123 site (a notorious banner farm) as well as in a KVM Media-delivered popup. Both ContextPlus and KVM are spyware installed without consent. Yet Claria is paying them fees to buy ads through their systems -- making the spyware problem worse, and contributing to the spyware ecosystem.

Responsible advertisers and ad networks need to work hard to keep their money away from spyware and to keep their ads out of spyware, even through convoluted or indirect relationships. As a new ad network buying large amounts of untargeted ("RON" run-of-network / remnant) inventory, Claria is at particular risk of buying spyware traffic -- and in the past 8 months, I've now seen Claria buying such inventory on scores of occasions. Keep heading in this direction, and Claria will have shut down its own spyware only to bankroll others' spyware. It's nothing to celebrate.

Never a dull moment.


Ben Edelman

5:44 PM  
Blogger BillP said...

Thank you for the additional information Ben. There was no celebration intended by todays post. As one of my other crusading heros I'm pleased to know you'll continue to keep an eye on Claria despite their NoAdware claims.

While there may be more dangerous spyware out there I think it's very scary that deceptive installations could be viewed as accepted business practices.

6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 'fond' memories of Gator: the very first spyware (or adware)detected on my first home computer in 2001 (I started late :p) by Ad-Aware. I remember having absolutely no clue what spyware was all about then. How much I have learned up to now is down to you guys and others like you: many thanks!
Steve

8:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Seither said...

Bill,

Yes, this is helpful, thanks for flagging the manual navigation scenario. It's clearly not our intention to distribute new copies of these apps, and we're encouraging current users to uninstall.

JS

7:56 PM  

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