Spyware or Slyware?

Software that sneaks onto your machine may not always be spyware, but it's not very welcome either.

AOL caused a stir among users when it introduced AOL Instant Messengers most recent update, version 5.5. This version installed WildTangent, which most security programs identify as spyware, yet companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Gateway deliver it preinstalled on many of their machines. The WildTangent site (www.wildtangent.com) says that its Web Driver platform is merely an enabling device for high-quality online games.

If youre an AIM user, you probably agree to upgrades fairly automatically, as insurance against bugs, hacks, and future incompatibilities. But the initial release of version 5.5 didnt tell users it was going to install WildTangent, which users deplored. In apparent response, subsequent revisions do make this clearer. But questions remain: Is WildTangent evil or is it innocent fun? Are we too quick to label as spyware any software that ends up on our machines without our knowledge? The answers depend on your level of paranoia and how protective you are of what software gets loaded onto your PC.

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