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Spyware Scanners

There are two types of spying programs: Adware and Spyware. The only difference between the two is that Adware is something you agreed to install at some point while Spyware never asked for your permission (you have to read all that small print when installing programs you know).

Anyway, regardless of how you got it, some software tracks your online activity and more and then sends that data back to some marketing company somewhere so they can add it to your profile. If you want to prevent that from happening, installing a spyware scanner is the best way.

Note that some anti-virus programs will scan for spyware, but leave adware alone but because ad-ware is technically legal. That's why you need to install and run a spyware scanner now and then.

Currently, we recommend Ad-aware spyware scanner.

There are several different free adware and spyware scanners, but Ad-Aware is one of the simplest to use. Just install it and run the scanner every week or so to make sure that any spyware that sneaks onto your computer gets removed.

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Sears and Kmart Websites Install Spyware on Computers

Bad Sears, BAD!

The sick thing about this story is that the spyware wasn't a hack against these companies, but was planned and sanctioned by the companies.

Between April 2007 and January 2008, visitors to the Kmart and Sears web sites were invited to join an "online community" for which they would be paid $10 with the idea they would be helping the company learn more about their customers. It turned out they learned a lot more than participants realized or that the feds thought was reasonable. To join the "My SHC Community," users downloaded software that ended up grabbing some members' prescription information, emails, bank account data and purchases on other sites. Sears called the group that participated "small" and said the data captured by the program was at all times secure and was then destroyed.

Remember that there are no laws currently to protect against the abusive data collection and sharing practices that many companies employ. Be careful with your data and don't trust even the most reputable-seeming companies to choose your privacy over the almighty dollar.

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FTC To Challenge Fake Blogging, Spyware, Spam, and DRM

(Image is in the Public Domain)

I'm skeptical of the Federal Trade Commission's ability to deal with spyware or Spam, but the crack-down on fake blogging and unlabeled DRM is interesting.

Fake blogs (flogs), like the ones set up by Sony to promote the PSP, also try to gain authenticity by masquerading as homegrown labors of love. And while most established media sites have policies designed to keep editorial and advertising separate, blogs may have no such rules in place.
Case in point: the Sony BMG rootkit fiasco, a case in which the Commission actually did charge the company with deception for not informing consumers that certain CDs contained DRM that limited their usefulness.
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Spyware to be Legalized

Brilliant Plan
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

Congress is now considering a bill similar to the CAN-SPAM act for spyware. Like the CAN-SPAM act, it doesn't actually stop anything, but rather legalizes it instead.

Let's sum up. If the Spy Act become law, hardware, software, and network vendors will be granted carte blanche to use spyware themselves to police their customers' use of their products and services. Incredibly broad exceptions will probably allow even the worst of the adware outfits to operate with legal cover. State attempts to deal with the spyware problem will be pre-empted and enforcement left up almost entirely to the FTC. Gee, what's not to like in that deal?
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