Microsoft Irks Watchdogs with Claria Downgrade Explanation

Microsoft said it made "absolutely no exceptions" for Claria when it downgraded the default recommendations in the Windows spyware detection tool. Anti-spyware watchdogs say they aren't impressed with Redmond's explanation.

Microsoft has broken its silence over the decision to downgrade the default recommendations in its Windows AntiSpyware product, insisting that "absolutely no exceptions" were made for Claria Corp.

Facing heavy criticisms for recommending that users "ignore" the existence of Clarias adware products, Microsoft Corp. issued a public statement to explain that the change stemmed from a review that was based on a single set of objective criteria.

"[We] decided that adjustments should be made to the classification of Claria software in order to be fair and consistent with how Windows AntiSpyware handles similar software from other vendors," Microsoft said.

Anti-spyware advocates first discovered the Claria default changes immediately after rumors swirled that Microsoft was in acquisition talks with the Redwood City, Calif.-based distributor of the controversial Gator ad-serving software, but although Redmond wont confirm or deny the rumors, the statement made it clear the Claria downgrade occurred more than three months ago.

"All software is reviewed under the same objective criteria, detection policies and analysis process. Absolutely no exceptions were made for Claria. Windows AntiSpyware continues to notify our users when Claria software is found on a computer, and it offers our users the option to remove the software if they desire," the company added.

In an interview, corporate vice president at Microsofts Security Business and Technology Unit Mike Nash said the downgrading of the Claria rating had nothing to do with any kind of rumored acquisition.

While he said he could not comment on acquisition rumors in any way, Nash said his team is "hard-core religious about the definitions [of spyware], independent of anything else going on."

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsoft downgrading Claria adware detections.

"They are pure. They will not be messed with," Nash said. "Weve had some interesting learning on the anti-spyware product front. We took our time to define our parameters on what is spyware vs. software. We published a white paper on this a couple months ago."

He also noted that Microsoft doesnt always downgrade ratings. "Sometimes we bump up from moderate to high."

Next Page: Legacies affecting downgrades.