MS AntiSpyware Changes Raise Concern

A spyware researcher has found that an update to Microsoft's AntiSpyware program has changed how it flags programs from Claria, an adware developer. Last week, it was rumored that Microsoft was considering purchasing the company for its software technology to deliver personalized ads.

Eric Howes at Spyware Warrior discovered the changes during a recent test and found that Dashbar, Gator, PrecisionTime and Weatherscope had all been switched from a "Quarantine" classification to "Ignore."

"Does this mean that Claria will, in fact, be purchased by Microsoft? Not necessarily," said Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software, which shares the spyware definition files with Microsoft.

According to Eckelberry's records, the changes happened back on March 31. He also said it could just be the result of successful lobbying by the company to be taken off the list, or even a mistake.

While Claria is infamous for its Gator adware, in recent months the company has begun an attempt to clean up its act. Claria is now working on software that offers personalized services and tools to let Web developers create customizable sites.

According to the New York Times, Claria had approached Microsoft about using some of its technology. That technology must have interested Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; according to the source, Ballmer gave the approval to begin buyout talks earlier this month.

In any case, at least one analyst sees the buyout as unlikely. "Microsoft is fairly sensitive about 'Big Brother' accusations, enacts a strict (and I mean strict privacy policy) and operates under a FTC settlement related to privacy issues," Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox wrote in his Microsoft Monitor Web log last Thursday.

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