The umbrella definition of spyware also includes other types of programs,
such as software that will download specific advertising content constantly to
your browser, regardless of where you happen to be on the Internet, software
that hijacks your homepage to one of its own choosing, etc. The constant with
all these forms of spyware is the element of consent.
Legally, the manufacturers have obtained your consent to
install their software on your computer and transmit information from it, and
thus will claim (since most internet users have at least heard of the term
spyware used negatively) that their product is not spyware. Their software was
only installed after getting permission from the user, but it is unlikely that
the majority of computer users hosting so-called spyware programs on their
computer expect, approve, or are even aware that their computer may be
transmitting information back to the manufacturer for its own use.
Whether or not this lack of awareness should make a users' information fair game
is not up to us to decide, but since entire businesses have been founded to
exploit the tendencies of the average internet user, why not provide information
that will help the idividual decide if they want to be surveyed or
What's the point of Spyware?
The major concern that keeps cropping up when spyware is discussed is
privacy, certainly the number one issue with spyware as it is generally
characterized in the media. While there are varieties of spyware (see our
partial list of definitions below) that send little or no information out from
your computer, the majority of spyware was created for customer demographic
purposes, and as such, wants to know who you are, where you are going on the
web, and what you like to buy when you go there.
This information can then be sold
or more likely just used to target you with customized advertising from the spyware creator's list of clients. As you have generally agreed to allow your information to be used this way when you allowed the program to install (and most likely bypassed the EULA, the End User License Agreement, as about 99% of computer users habitually do) you have no legal recourse to stop this data mining from taking place outside of uninstalling the offending program.
It is doubtful
that the majority of spyware users realize that their information is being gathered in this way, or even realize that the programs are installed at all in many cases. Indeed, the profits of manufacturers such as Gator corporation seem to be dependent on the unfortunate fact that the average computer user is not going to be aware of what these programs are intended to do, even when the information is presented to them (albeit in a confusing way).
secondary issue is the added difficulty some forms of spyware give to the already difficult task of introducing your children safely to the Internet. Granted, many school age kids are already more computer literate than their parents, but take for example the idea of a spyware 'browser hijacking' program installed on your computer due to an accidental click or incorrect security settings on your browser. Having Internet explorer default to a pornographic "home page" each time it is opened, with no apparent way to change it back is most parents' idea of a nightmare. There are programs and websites out there that can make this happen. Also, varieties of spyware can degrade your Internet performance, connect to the Internet independently, and may even destabilize the computer.