Friday, August 06, 2004

Spyware blues

From the Palm Beach Post:

Personal and business computers across the country are being infiltrated by programs called spyware that can track your online habits, draw a bead on your interests and then flood your screen with unsolicited advertisements. Like human infiltrators, these programs can be evasive, dangerous and determined to seize control.

"People are tearing their hair out and screaming about this," says Megan Kinnaird of the nonprofit Internet Education Foundation in Washington, D.C. "It's causing problems for everyone."

That might be only a slight exaggeration.

"I'd say 75 percent of the computers we've seen have spyware on them," says Dan Bukowski, owner of Computer Medic Center in North Palm Beach. "The only ones that don't are those folks who don't go on the Internet."

Spyware, also called adware, lurks on many Internet sites that sell products or that offer downloads such as music, software or photos. Some of these sites appear to be free but are supported by advertisers who pay to have spyware deliver their messages or collect information about what computer users are browsing for.

Why isn't spyware a felony offense? Why is it that the politicians who are so eager to put filtering software on public library Internet connections do nothing to protect us from spyware? You would think they would at least want to protect their own computers.

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