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Understanding what Spyware really is

There is a great deal of paranoia involved in what spyware and adware is and does. Some of the concerns are valid, but a lot of them are decidedly not. In order to get some peace of mind in regard to these, first we need to know something about them, what they are, and what they do.

It is very important to understand that Adware and Spyware are not the same thing. Let’s look at the two and how they differ.

Spyware: Spyware is an application that will capture some sort of information from your computer, without any disclosure that it is doing so or going to do so. Spyware is illegal in the United States and many other countries, and the Federal Communication Commission is generally very quick to force the removal of any spyware from the market. All software, by law, must have full disclosure.

Adware: Adware is totally different than spyware. First of all, while it might in some instances capture information, this fact is always disclosed in the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA), and usually on the manufacturer’s web site as well. Also, the information received in almost always anonymous, meaning that a company may receive information regarding the type of sites you visit, but they have no idea at all about who YOU are. (You can think of it like a person standing outside a store and counting the number of people going into the store. They don’t know the people, and really don’t care, they only want to know how many people are visiting the store.) Second, adware is simply any application that delivers advertising, hence the name. It takes a great deal of money to develop and produce software. The funding from this must come from somewhere, and in adware, it primarily comes from advertising. This is especially true of applications that are offered for free, since without the revenue, the manufacturer would not be able to afford to produce, market, or revise the software. Information regarding the advertising, advertising type, and advertising amount are also included in the EULA, which a user generally must accept in order to install the software.

Naturally, there is a valid concern about spyware and the information it collects. However, it is likely that most of the software on the market that is commonly and mistakenly called spyware, is not spyware. Usually spyware applications are very quickly either taken off the market or forced to comply with privacy laws.

It is also likely that around 90% of the free software on the market is either adware, or that the manufacturer has another means of enticement to get the user to give them money for the application.

Also, a very important point that is worth keeping in mind is that whenever possible, if you do not want a particular adware application on your computer, you should uninstall it through normal means whenever possible, rather than either deleting files or using another application to remove it. Uninstalling an application in this manner will leave files and registry entries behind, which can lead to computer problems in the future. My own personal preference is to use the so called anti-spyware applications to find out what applications are actually installed, then if I want to remove them, I do it either through Add/Remove Programs or through the programs’ Uninstall group.

I’m hoping that with this information, people can rest a little easier in regard to the hype surrounding Adware and Spyware. Caution is always advisable, however it shouldn’t be taken to such extremes that it causes paranoia or panic.

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