Friday, June 17, 2005

Yahoo, Apple and Google are Abusing your Trust

The idea of bundling software has been around for quite some time. For years AOL links and icons were bundled with just about everything. Here though it was merely icons and links attached to more frivolous applications. The recent trend with Malware force installing itself is much worse. This happening hidden from view, during a regular application's install has angered just about everyone who discovered it. But now companies are targeting the basic applications that make your computer work. They are abusing the trust built up with the fact that you are not likely to pay attention when installing basic applications from reputable companies.

Trust (Defined) -Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.

If someone like myself can accidentally install something bundled with an application that I have been using for years, then you can definitely bet on the average user doing it. What is worse is that they may actually think they need it. This can create a social engineering problem. "Old habits Die Hard" they always say. Here companies like Yahoo, Apple and Google create them by bundling their applications with Macromedia Flash, Apple QuickTime, WinZip, Realplayer and Adobe Reader. Sure some of these applications have an opt-out option not to install the unwanted parasite but that is not the point. I simply don't want to worry about this.

The average user is not only plagued by the Spyware epidemic but is now becoming a pawn for all the "legal" companies. They are getting hit from both ends and the sad part is they don't even know it. You expect this sort of thing from the Malware writers. People might even say you expect this from Microsoft. But Yahoo, Apple and especially Google? What happened to the White Knights?

Maintaining Trust:
If you want to maintain the trust that you may have worked so long to build up then you need to follow some simple rules:

1. Bundled Software should NEVER be default installed. Instead it should be an option to select.
2. Bundled Software should easily be uninstallable separately from the host application.

Only the Beginning:
From Toolbars to iTunes customer's Harddrives look to become the dumping ground for many more unwanted applications. I mean why stop with Toolbars or a Desktop search application, especially when you can hide behind an opt-out notice? How long before programs of significant size and CPU cycles start winding up on your harddrive? The kicker being they were all installed "legally", only this time it is YOUR fault for not paying attention.


Timothy R. Butler said...

Rather than looking at QuickTime and iTunes as two separate products, the author should look at it as one product with two frontends (which is true). Really, you have one product (QuickTime), which is used via QuickTime Player or iTunes. Moreover, the combined package of two front ends is roughly equivalent to the single applications known as Windows Media Player or Real Player, since they both have the jukebox integrated into the standard viewer (which I think is annoying... QuickTime+iTunes works more in the grand *nix tradition of one purpose for one app).

As a side note, I'd also add that it is clearly indicated that you will be downloading both when you go to Apple's site, so it isn't Apple "infecting" PC's as this blog implies.

Andrew said...

You don't get it I don't want iTunes nor any of it's inlcuded features. Especially the useless service that loads with it.

While it is clear in those options, the option to use the standalone install is completely NOT clear. Any software that is bundled that cannot be easily uninstalled I would consider an infection.