AOL 9.0 (free version) Status: Open Inquiry In our preliminary findings, we find that AOL 9.0 (free version) is currently badware because it installs additional software without telling the user, it forces the user to take certain actions, it adds various components to Internet Explorer and the taskbar without disclosure, it may automatically update without the user’s consent, and it fails to uninstall completely. We currently recommend that users do not install the version of AOL software that we tested, unless the user is comfortable with the level of risk we identify or until the application is updated consistent with the recommendations in this report. OVERALL RATING Badware Behavior Installs
It seems that even the big players still don’t get it. StopBadware, a “neighborhood watch” for sneaky software, says that the latest (9.0) version of AOL software
installs additional software without telling the user, it forces the user to take certain actions, it adds various components to Internet Explorer and the taskbar without disclosure, it may automatically update without the user’s consent, and it fails to uninstall completely.
Pretty damning stuff. We know this kind of thing happens but this seems to be somewhat excessive. Most damning are the bundled programs installed without permission, or even informing the user: RealPlayer (surprise, surprise), QuickTime, AOL You’ve Got Pictures Screensaver, Pure Networks Port Magic, and Viewpoint Media Player. “During the installation process,” StopBadware says, “the user is never clearly notified that AOL will be installing these programs.”
StopBadware quotes AOL as saying that they are reviewing the report.
Companies have got to stop this kind of thing. This report is damning in that it’s clearly not just one oversight: The software has been designed to be as invasive as possible, to basically take over the user’s computer and steer them to all things AOL. That Apple and Real Networks allow themselves to be involved does not reflect on either well. And after some difficulty uninstalling it I’m beginning to have my suspicions about Network Magic (Pure Networks Port Magic is an AOL version of the software) too.