As we've seen in the past few months, companies whose software is frequently labeled "adware" or "spyware" are scrambling for cover. Some have tried to partner with anti-spyware firms. Others have tried to join industry consortiums in order to give themselves the air of legitimacy. Still others, though, have been quietly threatening anti-spyware vendors, web sites, and even individuals to get themselves removed from detections databases and to silence their critics on the internet.
We now have yet another unfortunate example of this: CastleCops has just reported that it received a "cease & desist" letter from ISearch.com/IDownload.com. You can find Paul & Robin's report as well as the text of the letter here:
ISearch and IDownload make a number of browser add-ons for Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. You can read about two ISearch/IDownload variants at Andrew Clover's well-known and thoroughly researched doxdesk.com:
ILookup (aka HotSearchBar)
Pugi (aka ISearch Toolbar)
Some of you might remember IDownload.com from the Windows Media adware fiasco back in January. As reported in this DSLR/BBR thread:
WMP Adware: A Case Study in Deception
...IDownload's HotSearchbar was caught using an incredibly deceptive ActiveX Security Warning box, claiming to be a "Required Media Player Version 9 Browser Update" (see 1st screenshot) in order to exploit user confusion over the Windows Media license acquisition process, which very well might prompt bewildered users to consent to a legitimate Windows Media Player update from Microsoft itself.
Complaints about ISearch/IDownload are rife on the Net, and a simple search of any of the major "anti-spyware" forums will turn up endless user complaints. One of the better and more revealing write-ups comes from Michael Malone, who published a long-ish article on his experiences with ISearch/IDownload's software back in May 2004:
ABC News - The Search Tool That Ate My Computer
The license agreement used with some ISearch/IDownload software is also of interest ( http://toolbar.isearch.com/terms.html):
said by ISearch EULA:
2. Functionality - Software delivers advertising and various information and promotional messages to your computer screen while you view Internet web pages. iSearch is able to provide you with Software free of charge as a result of your agreement to download and use Software, and accept the advertising and promotional messages it delivers.
By installing the Software, you understand and agree that the Software may, without any further prior notice to you, automatically perform the following: display advertisements of advertisers who pay a fee to iSearch and/or it's partners, in the form of pop-up ads, pop-under ads, interstitials ads and various other ad formats, display links to and advertisements of related websites based on the information you view and the websites you visit; store non-personally identifiable statistics of the websites you have visited; redirect certain URLs including your browser default 404-error page to or through the Software; provide advertisements, links or information in response to search terms you use at third-party websites; provide search functionality or capabilities; automatically update the Software and install added features or functionality or additional software, including search clients and toolbars, conveniently without your input or interaction; install desktop icons and installation files; install software from iSearch affiliates; and install Third Party Software.
In addition, you further understand and agree, by installing the Software, that iSearch and/or the Software may, without any further prior notice to you, remove, disable or render inoperative other adware programs resident on your computer, which, in turn, may disable or render inoperative, other software resident on your computer, including software bundled with such adware, or have other adverse impacts on your computer.
Advertisements may be displayed of advertisers who pay a fee to iSearch and/or it's partners and you may be provided with and/or redirected to content of other parties and/or links to third party websites or content or offered the opportunity to download software from third party software vendors. iSearch and it's partners are not responsible for the privacy practices of such advertisers, content providers, third party software vendors or websites. iSearch encourages you to read the privacy policies of such advertisers, content providers, third party software vendors and websites.
iSearch and/or it's partners may use invisible tracking or counting devices known as "web bugs" to register that a particular web page has been viewed and/or "cookies" or alphanumeric identifiers that iSearch and/or it's partners transfer to your computer's hard drive through your web browser to enable iSearch and/or it's partners systems to recognize your web browser.
iSearch and/or it's partners may also collect and may use certain other types of non-personally identifiable information, including: certain of the web pages that you view, the amount of time that you spend on certain websites, your responses to ads served by iSearch and/or it's partners, certain software installed to your computer and software characteristics and preferences, non-personally identifiable information on web pages and forms, software usage characteristics and preferences, and your ZIP code. iSearch and/or it's partners may associate this information with a randomly-generated anonymous identifier for your computer and may use this information to enable the functionality of the Software, to periodically update the Software, to deliver and display ads served by iSearch and/or it's partners of advertisers who pay a fee to iSearch and/or it's partners, provide you with or redirect you to content or websites of such advertisers or other parties and offer you the opportunity to download software from third party vendors.
iSearch and/or it's partners may share non-personally identifiable aggregate information about you with third parties, including advertisers.
But, of course, IDownload is happy to certify their own software as "spyware free" (see second screenshot) when you download programs that bundle their software.
What ISearch/IDownload won't let you do apparently, is come to your own opinion and judgment and share them with others. If you dare to do so, you could find a "cease & desist" letter from their attorneys swiftly winging itself your way.
Why should a company bother changing its business practices when it can simply silence critics of those practices with legal threats?
Eric L. Howes
Full Read @DSLR