Questionable Altnet.i Licensing

Like many things illegal through the internet, some aspects of spyware activity are found to be legally questionable but not AdWare.Win32.Altnet.i . While software installing a spyware module should disclose this fact to the user and offer the option of refusing, any such disclosure is often buried in a long and densely-worded License Agreement, slipped in among page after page of mind-numbing legal jargon on such topics as copyright, distribution, disassembly, reverse-engineering, government and restricted rights, disclaimer of fitness for a particular purpose, and similar topics of little relevance to the average user2. Additionally, the actual spyware notice is often written in such a roundabout, flowery and disingenuous manner that a reasonable user would have no reason to take special interest in it3. To most users, a phrase such as “may include software that will occasionally notify you of important news” is NOT equivalent to “will place a stealthy Trojan Horse on your system that you can’t get rid of, which will collect information about you and send it to us, and allow us to bother you with targeted advertisements all day”. Once the spyware has been “disclosed” and the spyware company can argue that the user has “agreed” with it by continuing beyond the License Agreement, it is much more immune from potential lawsuits from users who accepted the license and installed the software,  blissfully unaware of the spy that would now be living on their computers. Some spyware companies do not mention the spyware at all, often pointing the finger at the company whose software utilizes it for not disclosing it. (How convenient!) While the most common culprits are shareware and “freeware” apps, paid-for commercial software has been known to contain spyware as well. The majority of a software License Agreement refers to government users, corporations, distributors and software hackers. It can be safely assumed that a majority of users have no interest in disassembling their software, porting it to other operating systems or hardware architectures, or other such activities extensively droned on about in the License Agreement. See Steve Gibson’s explanation and example of “Fine Print Funny Business”: http://grc.com/oo/fineprint.htm . (Note that the example Steve gives eventually does, albeit in dense wording, disclose what’s going on. Be aware that many spyware agreements are even less forthcoming about the nature of their software!)

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