Notes from the workshop

Summary:CNET Download.com is hosting an antispyware workshop tomorrow, in San Francisco, and the attendee list includes some major names in this field.

Yesterday's Antispyware Workshop was incredibly successful because of all the amazing people that showed up. I would really like to talk about everything that happened, but there was so much I can only offer some of what I feel are the most important nuggets to come out of it. Strangely, even though a lot was discussed, I felt that each panel needed much more time than we had.

The adware makers who attended should be applauded for their bravery, but in general they didn't come off very well. WhenU's new CEO Bill Day was probably the most honest and realistic of this crowd. He's trying to reform WhenU by being upfront with people about whether they want it installed or not. The concept of a value proposition arose from the discussion, whether adware makers could offer potential users anything compelling in exchange for getting ads served to them. Historically adware makers have not honestly offered this choice, instead relying on deceptive installations. It was pointed out that one of the apps offered by WhenU in exchange for viewing ads is a clock sync program, something already built in to Windows XP. Obviously that's not a good value proposition. If WhenU or other adware makers can offer me the equivalent of an Adobe Photoshop in exchange for viewing a few ads, I would consider it. But they're going to have to do a lot better than the rinky-dink games and screensavers they currently offer.

180Search and Claria took a beating for deceptive practices, as did Direct-Revenue. Dan Doman, CTO of Direct-Revenue, admitted that some versions of the client software are still not branded and have uninstallation procedures that require a live Internet connection. You can listen to the whole session here (may require free registration). I feel that these types of practices are deceptive and misleading. Speaking of which, Justin Brookman, the Assistant Attorney General from New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's office, attended. I hadn't mentioned their case against Intermix in this space before, but it was great to talk to Justin. And many people at the conference were happy to point out other potential cases that the New York AG might want to take on.

I'll comment on other happenings from the workshop in other postings, but I want to get one final bit of info out. Serge Piasek, of French antispyware maker CheckFlow, pointed out that EU Directive 8446 requires adware makers who maintain databases of information about users to inform those users about what's in those databases. Directive 8446 has the potential to kill most adware in Europe.

Topics: Security

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