There is there a battle going on inside Microsoft over the possible acquisition of Claria, the worlds largest spyware company.
Thats one of the lines of speculation that developed after the Wall Street Journal broke the story last week that the two companies are supposed to be in negotiations. And it makes sense.
The reasoning is that anti-Claria forces inside Microsoft leaked the story in hopes of killing the deal.
Indeed, the WSJ story quotes the source as saying that if there is significant bad customer reaction, Microsoft might walk away.
Thats just the sort of thing Id be sure to include in a leak if I worked at Microsoft and thought acquiring Claria would be a mistake.
That also explains why the Wall Street Journal got the call—or however the information was leaked to the newspaper—as there is hardly a larger flamethrower in the global business media. What better way to make your bosses sweat?
Maybe the "inside battle" theory is true, maybe not. But if the two companies werent talking, youd think Microsoft would issue a denial and head off the bad press.
Instead, the official word when I inquired of Microsoft PR about Claria was as follows:
"Per your questions regarding Claria and Microsoft, unfortunately, we dont comment on market rumors.
"That said, Microsoft is committed to treating all customer data with incredible care and respect. The company has strong principles around putting customers first and completely in control of their information. Microsoft has built-in processes and procedures to ensure their notice, choice and consent wherever any user data is concerned, giving customers the choice to uninstall and/or opt out."
OK, so Microsoft also thinks it can rehab Clarias image, or maybe that Claria is already meeting Microsofts "built-in practices and procedures."
Why else try to reassure people that Microsoft has "strong principles around putting customers first?"
Spyware researcher Ben Edelman reports that the free Microsoft Anti-Spyware program no longer recommends Claria be removed from the systems it scans.
If Microsoft is serious about Claria, thats something theyd do. And its a neat trick: Remove everyone elses spyware while leaving your own in place.
Microsoft says Clarias status was changed in March, but refuses to explain why. The company said it makes no public comment on why any software is or is not included in its anti-spyware product.
Questions are referred to a document that explains the listing criteria.
That may be a good policy for independent anti-spyware companies to follow, but Microsoft has huge conflicts-of-interest.