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Spy Vs. Spyware

One class of profiling software is what Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Corporation calls "spyware." Perhaps the most prominent company in the spyware market, Radiate provides advertising modules that software companies can use in their own applications. The revenues from banner ads served through Radiate's modules help support the applications so that companies can provide them to end users at no cost. Critics warn that transactions performed by the ad modules give rise to a number of privacy issues, since data is sent between the user's computer and Radiate's servers without the consumer's knowledge.

According to Gibson, there are now over 270 free software packages that use built-in advertising software from Radiate. Such packages include the popular CuteFTP and CSE HTML Validator Lite programs. A number of complaints have been filed over these programs' lack of disclosure when installing the Radiate module. End users have also voiced concerns over the inability to uninstall the ad portion of the software, and that Radiate's modules stay loaded even when the host program is not.

While Radiate acknowledges that they prefer their application to remain on computers after the host program has been uninstalled, they note that they do not attempt to collect unauthorized consumer information, nor has there been any evidence otherwise. Regardless, both Network Associates and Gibson Research Corporation have released products to guard against such intrusions. Guard Dog and OptOut, respectively, are designed to help users detect and remove programs like Radiate. A complete analysis of Radiate can be found on Gibson's site at grc.com/optout.htm.

—Bob Kaehms