I had a really fun time playing around with Gator. As a magician, I like a little misdirection as well as anyone, and Gator is a master at misdirection. While you are watching the right hand, here are a couple of things that the left hand is doing:
Trick #1: Gator is easy to uninstall.
Here's a little trick you can try at home folks. First go to a site called Lavasoft (http://www.lavasoftusa.com) and download a little program called Ad-Aware. Ad-aware checks your machine for so-called spyware - software that tracks your movements across the Web and then reports back. Run the program and eliminate any spyware programs (if you are like me, you'll be surprised how many you actually have on your machine). Then install Gator.
When you run Ad-Aware again, you'll notice that Gator installs around 50 separate files on your computer. Many of these files are for programs that are bundled along with Gator, such as Onflow and other programs. Now un-install Gator and run Ad-Aware again. Ooops. Gator is still there: in fact 47 of the 50 files Gator installs are still present on your computer after Gator uninstalls itself, including all the bundled programs which are never uninstalled. But of course, you wouldn't know that since Gator doesn't tell you what programs it is installing, doesn't let you know their privacy policies, and doesn't give you any way to uninstall them. Good trick, huh!
Trick #2. Gator protects your privacy.
Well, not exactly. If you read the privacy statement you find out that it also, conveniently takes everything else you happen to fill out in the registration form including your address, your last name, your phone number, your home phone number, your home address, your age, your income...everything but your credit card which does remain encrypted on your machine.
But who gets to look at that data? Gator, of course, and any 3rd parties that happen to do any work for Gator, although they are held to the same "high-standards" as Gator, when it comes to safeguarding your privacy. Just don't run for public office once you've installed Gator. Hey, was that Gordon Liddy doing that database installation?
And don't forget those "bundled" software packages that are also monitoring your activities, whose privacy policies you haven't read since you didn't know you were installing when you installed Gator. Remember, they don't get uninstalled when you uninstall Gator.
Now that is a great trick.
Gator's greatest trick of all is making everyone think this all about pasting their ads over Web pages. Instead, what this is about is infecting 8 million Internet users with equivalent of digital wiretaps, quietly monitoring their activity while the nation sleeps.
And that is one scary trick.