Re: RealNetworks is spying on Internet users again

From: Ross A. Finlayson (
Date: Tue May 30 2000 - 12:17:03 MDT

Spike Jones wrote:

> Harvey Newstrom wrote:
> > Another company is caught spying on your PC. RealNetworks installs a
> > "Download Demon" on your PC when you download their free players. It
> > records every download you make from the Internet and reports it back to
> > RealNetwork for marketing purposes.
> > Why do companies think they have the right to do this? I am seeing more and
> > more of this!

The above statement is ambiguous as to whether it means every file accessed
through RealPlayer or every file accessed through browser or network stack.

If RealNetworks, or for that matter, browser manufacturer, enables amalgamation of
posting habits then there is security concern.

> We each need to figure out how much information freedom we are
> comfortable with, do we not? There are those on this list who feel
> that all information should be freeeee, so to them I say fine: freeeee
> your own first. I have been toying with this notion myself, to go
> ahead and open my own hard disks for anyone who cares to see,
> including financial records, tax records, medical, driving, scholastic,
> employment, everything and anything. If I did that, then I would be
> perfectly comfortable downloading free stuff.
> Seems like if they offered some free software and you took the
> action to download it, whatever it wants to do is fair game. spike

I will disagree with you on that, although you are perhaps being sarcastic. What
this kind of software is commonly called is a Trojan, referring to the Trojan
Horse, in that it purports to be some kind of program when it has in fact a
different, unadvertised, function that its users would normally not want and which
might be damaging to them.

If this alleged software function is happening, then the perpetrator is guilty of
stealing information from its users.

There is no functional RealPlayer on this system, it says, and I am quite sure
never to have signed over rights to any kind of access to this system.

I browse RealPlayer web page and they have obtained one of those rubberstamp
privacy seals. The basis of those seals is that there is a posted privacy
policy. So, the prvacy policy might be "this software installs a keystroke
monitor and posts all data on the Internet for anyone", also, there is no
enforcement. Anyways, the privacy policies (there are several) posted there make
no mention of tracking users' network activity completely unrelated to a streaming
media solution. There are some highly ambiguous statements in their posted
policies, essentially giving a lot of leeway, depending on interpretation.
Figuratively, of course, it's supposed to be some kind of protection of privacy,
but literally it might be interpreted differently.

Regardless of an organization's privacy manifesto, if they steal information from
you or otherwise take it without telling you, then you have been damaged.

Remember when Microsoft Win95 installation tried to post back information on all
the third party software that was installed? There were many issues with this.

So, then, how about this then, you keep your private information private, and if
you want to try some free software it doesn't attempt to steal it from you. That
shouldn't be an issue, except for those who would.

It's kind of ugly to suggest to start filing class-action suits on behalf of
anyone duped into running these Trojans, in lieu of legislated privacy

This is one area where the United States is behind Europe, privacy laws.


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