Demystifying EULAs

End User License Agreements (EULAs) -- do you read them? You know you should but...

End User License Agreements (EULAs) -- do you read them?  You know you should but if you are like most people, you probably read the first paragraph or two, skim the rest, then your eyes glaze over and you click "I agree" to end the pain.  Indeed, its no small task to make sense of the Faster XP 11,000 word EULA dissected here by Paperghost of VitalSecurity.org.  Let's not forget the Claria 5,900 + word, 63 on-screen page license agreement described by Ben Edelman earlier this year.

Now there is help to analyze those complex, tedious, mystifying, verbose EULAs. Javacool Software has released EULAlyzer 1.0, a free tool which looks for "potentially interesting words and phrases" such as pop-up, unique identifiers, personally identifiable information.  EULAlyzer works in seconds and provides the user with needed details that could otherwise be overlooked.  (Javacool is also the author of SpywareBlaster and SpywareGuard, two great free apps to help prevent spyware infestation and homepage hijacking.)  A detailed review of EULAlyzer has been posted at Spyware Warrior by Corinne, a well known figure in anti-spyware forums.

A similar tool is on the horizon according to Wayne Porter of FaceTime.  In his ReveNews blog, Wayne mentions what he calls Project Truth Serum, a collaborative effort by Ben Edelman and FaceTime expected to debut in the near future.  Wayne posted a sample of the output from a 5,653 word EULA containing 145 sentences averaging 38.99 words per sentence at SpywareGuide.com. 

Why is understanding EULAs important?  If you knew the screensaver you were about to download was going to include software that would spawn pop-ups on your desktop every few minutes, track your online behavior, record sites you surf and send information, possibly even personally identifying information, back to its home server, you might think twice about installing it. Why are adware vendors not transparent in their license agreements?  Because they know that people would, indeed, hesitate and often refuse a "free" product that was going to slow their computer down and interfere with normal web browsing.