“Groupthink” overshadows a new spyware hunting initiative

Sunbelt Software of Clearwater, Florida just announced the acquisition of a smaller outfit that searches for new spyware implementations using web-crawling methodology. Not a bad idea to try sniffing out spyware, across the web, by crawling sites that might be taking advantage of a browser user’s surfing patterns.

Meanwhile, the battle to determine what is and isn’t spyware may have taken a turn for the…

Better? Worse? Well, lets just call it worse.

A new alliance is being formed between some major anti-spyware vendors to develop guidelines for classifying the webbugs. While on the cover it may seem like a good approach, I don’t really like it all that much. Here’s why:

Setting up a group like this is going to allow adware/spyware developers a point of contact for lobbying to stay off those lists. Furthermore, any agreements between anti-spyware software manufacturers to comply with the decisions of the group is going to deplete some of the advantages of one countermeasure over another, and the only one who is going to be hurt by this is the consumer.

Forcing “anti-vendors” to choose what and what not to block (and governing the list by a “democratic” process), instead of giving users the choice through obvious desktop selection wizards, is defeating the purpose of privacy protection. I say block, by default, everything on an all-encompassing list, and then let the user decide what they will allow.

Tracking users is a serious privacy issue, and it smells like anti-spyware vendors are beginning to cowtow to the threat of lawsuit for evaluating this scurge of the internet landscape in an independent, objective, and necessarily critical manner.