Report: Claria Prohibits Consumers From Using Anti-Spyware Tools

A new report issued Monday examines the Claria Corporation's controversial attempts to prohibit consumers from using anti-spyware tools to remove Claria's ad-supported software programs.

The report, "Gator's EULA [end-user licensing agreement] Gone Bad," by researcher and Harvard law student Benjamin Edelman, examines a clause inserted by Claria about 3,000 words into a 5,936-word licensing agreement. It reads: "You agree that you will not use, or encourage others to use, any unauthorized means for the removal of the GAIN Adserver, or any GAIN-supported software from a computer."

A corresponding link takes users to a page where they can view the authorized means for removing its programs, but the lone sentence referring to software removal states: "If you decide you don't want GAIN-Supported Software, you can easily remove them through the Add/Remove Programs menu in your Microsoft Windows control panel."

Because the Windows add/remove menu appears to be the only authorized means of removal, using programs such as Spybot, Ad-Aware, and Web Sweeper to get rid of Claria might violate the licensing agreement.

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But, said Edelman, using Windows to remove Claria often is a cumbersome task. He reported that the add/remove programs frequently don't have an entry for Gator--the name for Claria's software and its former company name. "Instead," he wrote, "users are required to identify, find and remove all programs that bundle Gator, and only then is Gator's software designed to uninstall." He concluded: "This unusual removal procedure--unique among all programs I've ever encountered--makes Gator difficult for users to remove."

While Edelman said that Claria likely would have a hard time enforcing its "authorized removal" rule against consumers, the company can make the clause the crux of a case against anti-spyware software developers such as PestPatrol and PCPitStop--both of which are embroiled in litigation with Claria. Anti-spyware software companies could possibly be found liable for helping consumers to break their contract with Claria.

Edelman also found that Claria's licensing agreement tries to prohibit users from deploying network monitors to inspect and report transmissions made between their computer, their local network, and the GAIN servers. This type of activity, said Edelman, is required of researchers who monitor the company.

Edelman is a spyware expert, who has been used as an expert witness in numerous cases against adware companies on behalf of clients like the New York Times Digital, The Wall Street Journal Online, and WashingtonPost.com. He said he was not paid to construct this report.

Claria declined to comment for this story, but a spokeswoman indicated that the company is in the process of revising its license agreement.

In response to a MediaDailyNews request to interview D. Reed Freeman, Claria's chief privacy officer, and Scott Eagle, the company's senior vice president and chief marketing officer, a company spokesperson wrote: "Scott and Reed are pretty tied up this week and are slammed over the next few days. They are in the process of updating the EULA, which isn't uncommon, and Reed will be happy to speak with you on the changes once they are finalized and released in the next few weeks."

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