How Do You Spell Spyware?

    July 12, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

The Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC), a team of tech firms and software vendors, is seeking to nail down a universal definition of spyware to better prepare a counterattack-and they need your help.

Complaining that the definition of the term changed from company to company, the ASC says the first step in combating the menace is to regulate the language so that conflicting terms for the same idea (think spyware, snoopware, keyloggers, screen scrapers, etc.) are melded into one universal term.

The coalition is asking for feedback via a comment form on the website. The 13-page report can be accessed at the site as well. The final version will be released in the fall.

“The persistent concern in the spyware arena is that the definition of spyware has been very spongy; it changes from product to product, person to person and from analyst to analyst,” said David McGuire, ASC spokesman.

“A lot of this stems from not having a common dictionary of terms. These terms were sort of created in an ad hoc way, as many Internet terms are, and mean different things to different people.”

According to the report, the coalition defines spyware in two ways:

“Spyware: In its narrow sense, Spyware is a term for Tracking Software deployed without adequate notice, consent, or control for the user.”

The second definition requires some PDF page juggling, so I’ll just make it simpler.

Spyware and Other Potentially Unwanted Technologies: Technologies implemented in ways that impair users’ control over:

Material changes that affect their user experience, privacy, or system security

Use of their system resources, including what programs are installed on their computers

Collection, use, and distribution of their personal or otherwise sensitive information

“These are items that users will want to be informed about, and which the user, with appropriate authority from the owner of the system, should be able to easily remove or disable,” according to the glossary of terms in the report.