Adware - Is It Safe?

by : Dennis Welch,

If the program displays random advertisements without gatheringinformation about your online activities, then it's consideredsafe or ethical. You'll see the same advertisements that everyuser of the program is seeing. And the program isn't gatheringinformation about your surfing.

Why Should You Have to Put up With Ads?

I don't have a problem with advertisements on the Internet oreven ads within free or low cost programs. This, in my opinion,is no different than an ad on television or in a newspaper. It'swhat keeps these things low cost and keeps businessesin business.

Advertising has a purpose. It tells us about a company'sproduct. I can think of a lot of great products I've bought thatI would've never even known about if it wasn't for advertising.

I do have issues with some tactics that are used. For instance,adware programs that bury deep within their EULA statement(End User License Agreement) the fact that they collectinformation about what you're doing while you're online.

Most computer users don't read the EULA, especially if it's longand full of legalese. We should read them, but the fact is, weusually don't. Or we quickly scan them until our eyes glaze over.

The advertisers may have what they consider valid reasons forgathering information about your surfing activities. Usuallyit's stated that they want to display ads in which the userwould most likely have an interest.

From an advertisers point of view, that's probably a pretty goodidea. But that should be your decision whether you want them toprofile you or not.

When They Cross The Line.

There are also adware programs (or more specifically, the codewritten into them) that gather more than just information aboutyour surfing habits. They can send your IP address, computername, and information from web forms you've submitted to theirservers and this crosses the line to actual spyware.

Strictly speaking, spyware is a program that does this"phone home" activity without your knowledge. And when an adsupported program crosses this line, it's spyware.

It shouldn't matter if they tell you in section 12,subparagraph 15, item 1.5a of their EULA or's stillspyware when they do this. Put it up front in the licenseagreement. Let the user know what they're installing.

Is There Any Such Thing as a Good Adware Program?

One comes to mind as I write this...Eudora email client.According to their claims (and I have no reason to doubt them),their program doesn't spy on you.

When you install Eudora, you fill out a user profile that youcan modify whenever you want. This profile (minus any personalinformation) is used to serve advertisements from Qualcommservers. Qualcomm is the maker of Eudora.

Should You Use Ad Supported Programs?

I'm not anti-adware. I've used these programs in the past, andI'll probably use them again, but I want them to tell me whatinformation they're gathering, why they're gathering it, andwhere they're sending it.

Be up front with it. Make it easy to understand. Most usersaren't lawyers. Like I said, I understand advertising and Isupport advertising...ethical advertising.

After researching the company, I may decide to trust them andinstall their program. That way, I get a good program for freeand they get their advertising can be awin/win situation.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Educate yourself. Know what you're installing and using on yourcomputer. Read the EULA.

Visit websites like and check out their SpywareInformation Center to learn about spyware and adware. Run theirfree online scans to keep your computer safe.

Also visit websites like or their articles and forums. Install Spybot Search & Destroyand AdAware, which you can get for free from those websites.

And, as you'll see me write over and overPsychology Articles, back up your computerregularly.