PC Pitstop has long been a source of information about unwanted software and how it spreads. Now we’re using our test results database to give you weekly updates about which programs are the most prolific. The prevalence numbers indicate the percent of PCs tested at PC Pitstop where we detected that file running. Our detection works by file name, so some products may be listed multiple times if they consist of two or more files. To check for spyware, adware, unneeded programs, and many other common PC problems, try PC Pitstop Exterminate or our full system scan.
The Gator Corporation makes several free applications that are distributed over the Internet. (On October 30, 2003, the company changed its name to Claria Corporation, but continues to operate in the same way it did before the name change.) Gator/Claria products are often delivered to end-users by being bundled with other applications or through “drive-by downloads” that pop up an ActiveX dialog and start the installation process if you say “Yes”.
The recent lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General against Direct Revenue provides an incredible amount of information about the sleazy activities of spyware and adware companies. In the past, we’ve pointed out that these companies were making lots of money from their invasive installations. We saw a glimpse of how much money was at stake when Claria filed to go public in 2004. In that filing, they revealed that they made about $100 million in 2003. However, that high-profile bid to go public was at the height of Claria’s power and profit; they quietly aborted the attempt in the fall of 2004 and just recently announced that they are getting out.
Since September 2003, PC Pitstop has been conducting a survey of users who have Gator or GAIN (Gator Advertising Information Network) applications installed on their PC. Our goal was to determine how much permission had really been granted to “permission based marketing” companies by users who install applications such as Gator’s.
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PC Pitstop has the unique ability to survey users to add qualitative information to our quantitative analyses. Since April 2004, we have been surveying Gator and When U users about their experiences with their software. The following survey question was asked to Gator users after their PC’s were tested but before their test results were displayed
Gator/Claria makes its money through advertising. In fact, in their SEC S1 filing (Note: 4 megabyte document!) they had revenues of over $100 million dollars! Many of those advertisers are not aware how users have been unwittingly drafted into Claria’s ad network via confusing tactics. The challenge for us is to get the message to these companies, and there is one group that can effectively deliver that message: customers and potential customers.
About a year ago, I was helping a friend with some minor computer problems in his small business in Rio. He is a pretty smart guy, but his computer knowledge was lacking, and I wanted to help. As we sat down at the computer, we got the familiar XP error message that asked us whether we want to send the error details back to Microsoft. My neophyte friend hit “Do Not Send” immediately. When I asked why, he said “I don’t trust those bastards for anything and I would never send personal information over the internet to them.”
Gator claims that it’s easy to remove their applications:
“All GAIN supported applications are easily removable via the application’s uninstaller and or the Windows Add/Remove Programs Control Panel. A few minutes after all GAIN applications have been uninstalled, the GAIN software is designed to self uninstall.” –Gator support response
Do you believe that Gator needs to exercise more care in getting permission to install and informing users about the license terms they are accepting? If so, here are some things you can do to encourage Gator to change its policies and practices.