3D Desktop's Misleading Installation Methods
Benjamin Edelman - Misleading Installations - Spyware Research, Legislation, and Suits

3D Desktop's on-screen disclosures deny users a meaningful opportunity to understand 3D's practices before allowing or refusing installation. This page identifies deficiencies in 3D's installation procedure: making false claims about its business model, failing to prominently disclose the installation of additional bundled software, making false claims in license agreements, and failing to disclose the identifies of all the specific programs to be installed. Users who "accept" 3D's installation cannot be said to have agreed to receive all the programs that result.


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3D Desktop, Ltd. makes a variety of computer screensavers. Common among them is the installation of a large amount of bundled software -- preceded by limited disclosure that results in users failing to understand the effects of installing 3D's software on their PCs.

3D's Flying Icons Screensaver installation procedure begins with the usual download-and-run procedure common to many programs. Screenshots:

3D Desktop installation procedure 3D Desktop installation procedure 3D Desktop installation procedure 3D Desktop installation procedure 3D Desktop installation procedure

3D license agreeemnt claiming to be "shareware."The first screen of 3D's license says the program is "shareware" which users may "test and evaluate" for 15 days. (See screenshot at right.) Users suspicious of "free" software may mistakenly take solace in this claim: When software vendors give away free trials in hopes of upselling users to full versions for a fee, the vendors would be unlikely to bundle extra software users don't want or need; such bundling would only hinder sales of the paid upgrades. So once users think they understand 3D's business model (e.g. once 3D says it's shareware), even sophisticated users may not seek further information about 3D's profit-seeking plans.

Users who take the time to read 3D's full license agreement find a surprise that begins to hint at 3D's true intentions: The final paragraph of 3D's license includes an admission of some bundled software, as shown in the text shown below.

3D Desktop admits installation of bundled software, but this admission comes only in the final paragraph of the on-screen license agreement.  This admission also lacks specificity as to the programs to be installed.

So 3D's license mentions inclusion of BlazeFind. But what does BlazeFind do? 3D's license fails to tell users anything about BlazeFind's purpose or effect, even in the most general terms.

Some users may click on 3D's link to the BlazeFind license (cached copy), yielding a popup that presents a 2,286-word document in twelve on-screen pages. The first five pages are shown below.

BlazeFind license agreement, as linked by 3D  license agreement. BlazeFind license agreement, as linked by 3D  license agreement. BlazeFind license agreement, as linked by 3D  license agreement. BlazeFind license agreement, as linked by 3D  license agreement. BlazeFind license agreement, as linked by 3D  license agreement.

Among the notable characteristics of the BlazeFind license:

Diagram of the steps users must follow in order to attempt to learn what software 3D and BlazeFind will install on their PCs.  Even diligent users ultimately have no way to know in advance what 3D will do to their PCs.Although BlazeFind gives a specific listing of programs to be installed (at license pages 2-3), in my testing BlazeFind installs far more software than the license names. BlazeFind does install 180solutions and Internet Optimizer -- both mentioned in BlazeFind's license. But in my testing BlazeFind also installed DyFuca, MediaAccess, ShopAtHome Select, TaskAd, and a toolbar variously known as Neo, TIBS, and WebSearch. So even if a user diligently reads every license the 3D installer references, the user still has no way to know in advance what software 3D and BlazeFind will install. See installation video and selected installation screenshots.

3D, BlazeFind/CDT, 180, and the other companies involved may claim that the installation shown here entails user consent. After all, users apparently must click "I accept the agreement" before the installation proceeds. But can a user be said to have accepted so many programs merely by clicking one button? Under these circumstances? Even when 3D falsely claims to be "shareware" rather than an adware bundler? Even when learning the names of (some of) the specific programs to be installed requires scrolling a license, clicking a link, and scrolling another license? Even when learning the terms of such programs requires manually retyping multiple additional URLs and reading their lengthy contents? Even when additional programs are installed beyond those specifically named, disclosed, and (perhaps) accepted by a user, such that users have no way to know about these additional programs in advance, not to mention review, evaluate, or consent to their terms? Even when license agreements make false claims about programs' effects and about their (supposed) protection of user privacy?

The flowchart at right tries to summarize the many steps a user must complete in order to learn what will occur upon installing 3D. Typical users will take a shortcut (yellow) that entails pressing "accept" without fully investigating all included disclosures. But even a careful, diligent user who completes a full examination (all steps shown in green) ultimately receives software not disclosed anywhere in the licenses. So no matter what investigation a user conducts, if the user presses accept, software will be installed beyond the programs the user had known about -- therefore installed without the user's consent.

Last Updated: September 9, 2005 - Sign up for notification of major updates and related work.