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News By Sep. 16, 2005 10:00 am
Search engine Ask Jeeves has made a couple of unpopular lists due to the way some of its plug-in software is being installed. Two anti-spyware companies, Sunbelt Software and Facetime, have flagged some of Ask Jeeves Web browser plug-ins as potentially unwanted software (not spyware) because they believe users aren t being adequately informed by third-party vendors that the software is being installed. The Ask Jeeves-owned software, which includes the Ask Jeeves Bar, the Excite Speedbar, the iWon Co-Pilot, My Search Bar, and the Need2Find Toolbar, is distributed by Ask Jeeves and other websites. Sunbelt and Facetime confirmed that there is nothing malicious about the software, only about the lack of notification.
According to Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt, Ask Jeeves needs to do some work on their distribution channel, so people are provided with adequate notice and disclosure. Ask Jeeves released a statement saying that it has strict guidelines as to how its software is to be distributed, and that any company that violates those guidelines will either be brought into compliance or terminated as an Ask Jeeves distribution partner.
There are other anti-spyware companies, including McAfee, Computer Associates, and Spybot, that flag at least one Ask Jeeves program.
More information on this topic is available from the TechWeb article .
CHRISTOPHER S OPINION
Part of the problem is that there is no one definition for spyware; the category is just too broad. Is Ask Jeeves malicious? No. But the company is obviously not following all the accepted guidelines on how to distribute software. You don t get on that many lists by being totally up-front.
It doesn t surprise me that Ask Jeeves seems to be pushing the boundaries here. It hasn t been eating up the search engine marketshare I can t even remember the last time I used it. It was a good idea, but Google and Yahoo! just blew it away.
Buried license agreements are nothing new half the time people have no idea what they are getting. This kind of stuff is unexpected from reputable companies like Ask Jeeves, though. I guess that is why it is news.