Google Proposes AdWare & Spyware Guidelines

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Google today proposed guidelines for Internet download software such as advertising ware, browser helpers, or search toolbars. Google states that they have become “alarmed by what we believe is a growing disregard for your rights as computer users.” Recently there has been an Internet boom in spyware and adware, which are software usually distributed using questionable techniques. Some users will download a screensaver or file swapping software, without being fully notified that such software is being shown on their computers.

Additionally, adware can take revenue from search engines such as Google which serve sponsored ad links. If a user who has certain adware software installed on their computer searches for a keyword, in some instances adware like Gator or WhenU will serve a popup graphic or different search results page with other sponsored links.

Google’s proposed guidelines are available on Google and also printed below. We think this is a good step for a web powerhouse like Google to propose these guidelines, even if lawmakers and software programmers ignore them, it states Google’s case (especially if they are planning on partnering with adware companies or releasing more downloadable search tools).

INSTALLATION

We believe software should not trick you into installing it. It should be clear to you when you are installing or enabling software on your computer and you should have the ability to say no. An application shouldn’t install itself onto your computer secretly or by hiding within another program you’re installing or updating. You should be conspicuously notified of the functions of all the applications in a bundle.

UPFRONT DISCLOSURE

When an application is installed or enabled, it should inform you of its principal and significant functions. And if the application makes money by showing you advertising, it should clearly and conspicuously explain this. This information should be presented in a way that a typical user will see and understand — not buried in small print that requires you to scroll. For example, if the application is paid for by serving pop-up ads or sending your personal data to a third party, that should be made clear to you.

SIMPLE REMOVAL

It should be easy for you to figure out how to disable or delete an application. The process should try to remove sufficient components to disable all functions of the application, visible or not, without messing up your computer. Once an application is disabled or deleted, it should not remain active or be automatically enabled later by itself or another application.

CLEAR BEHAVIOR

Applications that affect or change your user experience should make clear they are the reason for those changes. For example, if an application opens a window, that window should identify the application responsible for it. Applications should not intentionally obscure themselves under multiple or confusing names. You should be given means to control the application in a straightforward manner, such as by clicking on visible elements generated by the application. If an application shows you ads, it should clearly mark them as advertising and inform you that they originate from that application. If an application makes a change designed to affect the user experience of other applications (such as setting your home page) then those changes should be made clear to you.

SNOOPING

If an application collects or transmits your personal information such as your address, you should know. We believe you should be asked explicitly for your permission in a manner that is obvious and clearly states what information will be collected or transmitted. For more detail, it should be easy to find a privacy policy that discloses how the information will be used and whether it will be shared with third parties.

KEEPING GOOD COMPANY

Application providers should not allow their products to be bundled with applications that do not meet these guidelines.

Google would like readers to send their opinions and comments to software-principles@google.com

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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