Legal Battles Could Trim Down Bloatware
Most recently, a Chinese consumer group, the Shanghai Consumer Council, filed lawsuits against mobile-device makers Samsung and Oppo for selling smartphones pre-loaded with hard-to-remove, if not impossible-to-remove, bloatware. The consumer outcry and legal losses—Freemium.com was reportedly ordered to pay 500,000 Euro—have caused some companies to rethink their strategies. Lenovo, for example, backed off using Superfish, if not bloatware, in general, while Samsung has changed its strategy, according to Wei Shi, analyst with the global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics, a market research firm. "Samsung has undergone a directional change over the last year in their approach to preloading their own apps, as part of overhauling change in their content and service strategy," he said. "Mobile content strategy is primarily about differentiating their devices from competitors, creating sticky services to keep users within the Samsung ecosystem, but also to maintain the premium application service provider." Yet many other companies continue and it's business as usual. For example, Malwarebytes, a security firm that specializes in software that removes malware and adware, gets anywhere from five to 10 cease-and-desist letters a week from lawyers representing the companies that install what many consider potentially unwanted applications. Yet about 60 percent of the threats the company's software removes from consumers' systems are related to bundleware, Malwarebytes CEO Marcin Kleczynski told eWEEK.Security companies, such as Malwarebytes and Avira, have created guidelines to inform software developers and their own analysts as to what should be considered a potentially unwanted application. Avira's guidelines, for example, ask whether the software cannot be uninstalled by normal users, lacks a truthful description or changes browser settings without the user's explicit permission. Yet even with the recent legal losses, consumer outcry and outreach by security firms, the bundleware business is just too lucrative to die quickly, Avira's Witteveen said. "This is not going to slow down for a while," he said. "There is way too much money."
"You have to make a decision whether you are going to protect your user or not," he said. "At some point, we have to make the call with regards to what is good software and what is not."