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Misleading Installations of the Week: PacerD, and Claria's Dope Wars

April 25, 2005


It's Monday morning, so time for more misleading installations. Just like last week, I couldn't stop at only a single example; again I'm providing two.

PacerD's misleading pop-ups ask users to "please click yes" to accept "free browser enhancements." In fact what PacerD offers is an unusually large bundle of a dozen different programs, only some of them disclosed in fine print in PacerD's mislabeled (apparent, purported) license agreement, which in turn is only shown at a user's specific request. But click "Yes" once, and your computer will take a turn for the worse, with no subsequent opportunity to cancel.

The PacerD Installation Bundle

As usual, Claria's approach is somewhat more subtle. When Claria bundles its advertising software with the "Dope Wars" video game, Claria prominently tells users that it will deliver advertising. But Claria mentions effects on privacy only midway through a 43-page license agreement, that begins with three tedious pages of all-caps text. My sense is that few "Dope Wars" players are likely to wade through this lengthy license. So if Dope Wars users install Claria, they'll do so without first understanding what Claria will do to their PCs.

Claria's Misleading Installation Methods - Dope Wars

On some level, these two installations could hardly be more different. PacerD installs a dozen programs from numerous different companies; Claria installs just one. PacerD shows a popup while users are just trying to surf the web; Claria's interruption comes as users are trying to install software they actually want. But in relevant respects, I think these installations are surprisingly similar. For one, both seek to convert users' computers into advertising channels -- tracking what users do, and showing extra advertising. Also, both installations tell users something about the programs they are asked to accept, and both give savvy users an opportunity to learn more, but in each case the prominent on-screen text omits important facts users need to know in order to make sensible choices.