Anti-Spyware Vendor Takes Heat Over Adware Deal

Anti-spyware company Aluria Software has given passing marks to WhenU, which typically has been characterized as spyware. But Aluria also runs WhenU's UControl, a free desktop scanning program that removes unwanted spyware programs.

The presidential election has nothing on the debates in the anti-spyware industry. An announcement last week from adware vendor WhenU and anti-spyware company Aluria Software has raised red flags in the anti-spyware community.

As part of its new "Spyware SAFE Certification Program," Aluria gave passing marks to WhenU, which historically has been characterized as spyware by many in the industry. In a separate development, Aluria also now runs WhenUs UControl, a free desktop scanning program launched Monday that removes unwanted spyware programs.

"Aluria has gone almost immediately from targeting WhenU as spyware to the next day having a partnership," said Mike Healan, editor of Healan said he has de-listed Aluria, no longer recommending or linking to the company from his site.

Aluria said it is giving consumers a legitimate and safe option by differentiating itself and holding adware and spyware companies accountable to some two dozen privacy and technology standards, including not tracking customer behavior, making clear that software is being installed and including directions for simple removal.

"Were sticking our necks out there," said Rick Carlson, president of Aluria Software. He said desktop advertising is a legitimate business if it is held to standards, and Aluria has taken an approach not yet seen in the industry.

"Were protecting consumers in a different way; its absolutely contrary to what others [anti-spyware firms] are doing," he said.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about Microsofts plan to tackle spyware.

But Aluria has been savaged on message boards not for setting these standards, but for partnering with WhenU to run UControl.

Eric Howes, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who runs a privacy and security Web site, has been a harsh critic of the arrangement. He said Aluria is in a completely untenable position.

"If youre in the anti-spyware business, you shouldnt be exploiting that model yourself," he said. "You shouldnt be in a position to remove potential competitors from consumers desktops. Im perfectly happy with them working with companies to improve their practices, but setting standards has nothing to do with partnering with WhenU."

Next Page: An Aluria exec says money was not part of the deal.