Watchdog names and shames 'badware' vendors

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The Stopbadware Coalition, which takes aim at malware, spyware and adware, published its first report naming the programs it believes computer users should avoid installing.

The campaign's report, backed by Oxford and Harvard universities, claimed that file-sharing application Kazaa, download manager MediaPipe, anti-spyware tool SpyAxe and screensaver program Waterfalls 3 fell under its guidelines as "badware."

The organization, sponsored by Google, Lenovo and Sun Microsystems, defines an application as badware if either "the application acts deceptively or irreversibly." or "if the application engages in potentially objectionable behavior without: first, prominently disclosing to the user that it will engage in such behavior, in clear and non-technical language, and then, obtaining the user's affirmative consent to that aspect of the application."

The watchdog compiled the report from user submissions around the world. Since the organization's launch at the end of January, the website has drawn over 300,000 visits and over 1,000 individual submissions. Submissions to the website served as the base data for the report.

"Today, we're shining the spotlight on four applications pointed out by consumers that failed our test for badware in our lab. Our intention is for these reports to help consumers make a more informed decision before they download one of these applications" said John Palfrey, co-director of StopBadware.org and executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. "We hope our work will encourage these and other application developers to clean up their act."

The report claimed that Kazaa and two other programs were hard to completely uninstall and interfered with computer use among other incidients. A fourth application was found to send private information back to the vendor.

A spokeswoman for Kazaa hit back at the claims and blamed a glitch in Windows that made Kazaa files appear as if the files remained on the hard drive. "The glitch simply implies that everything hasn't be uninstalled even though it has," she told media.

Palfrey said the organization had no intention of hurting anyone's business and that the group wanted to see improvements in software behavior. He added the website has reserved a part of it for software vendors' comments on the report's findings.

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