Conflicts and a Change
of Status"> Among them: Microsoft sells advertising, as do spyware companies; spyware may compromise Microsofts ability to display the ads it sells; and, of course, Microsoft may be buying a spyware company. Since Microsoft competes with spyware, it seems the company should go to pains to demonstrate its not merely using anti-spyware as a tool to protect (or enhance) its MSN revenue.Some people still wonder whats so evil about Claria and may not realize the company had to abandon its old name, Gator, in response to bad publicity and lawsuits.According to Edelmans research, "Clarias installation practices are troubledtricking users with ads that look like Windows dialog boxes, touting features Claria knows users dont need (like clock-synchronizers already built into current versions of Windows). And in Clarias oft-installed bundle with Kazaa, Clarias long license lacks section headings, making it exceptionally hard for users to figure out what Claria does or to reasonably assess Clarias terms." Since Microsoft has changed Clarias status, we must assumesince Microsoft wont saythat Claria no longer violates its spyware standards. (See link above). Claria has a huge Oracle database, supposedly 120TB in size, of user behavior, gleaned by tracking Web users who have downloaded its software. This information is used to deliver ads based on what Web sites the user visits, sometimes in ways that could confuse the user as to where the ads came from. Edelman says Microsoft would be better off building its own ad delivery software rather than purchasing a company with Clarias controversial past and present. There is no getting around that Clarias 120TB of user information is tainted by how it was acquired. Yet, it may be the companys main asset since, presumably, Microsoft would have to clean up Clarias distribution scheme and could develop its own software for a lot less than Clarias reported $500 million price tag. What do I think is going on? 1. It would not surprise me if anti-Claria partisans within Microsoft leaked the story in an attempt to stop the deal. 2. I think Microsoft wants to buy Claria. I hope they can be dissuaded from doing so. 3. If Microsoft buys Claria, I believe Microsoft will legitimize its business practices, though what Microsoft considers legitimate and what Ben Edelman would consider legitimate may still be at odds. 4. I believe Microsoft does protect customer data and tries very hard to be a good steward of that data. I dont believe Microsoft would attempt to mislead customers the way spyware firms do routinely. However, Microsoft has shown itself to be tone deaf where privacy is concerned, thinking that its good intentions should be obvious. To read more insight about Claria from David Coursey, click here. Microsoft owes it to customers to explain its interest in Claria and tell them whether a deal is in the works. If so, Microsoft needs to explain Clarias past, current, and future business practices. But, if the choice were mine, Microsoft would just apologize for creating some unnecessary excitement, take a pass on Claria, and get on with business. Or maybe I have this entirely wrong and Microsoft wants to buy Claria just to put it out of business and remove a major spyware company from the world. Now, thats what Id call "putting customers first." Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.