Tuesday, August 08, 2006

And while we're on the subject of "Friends don't let friends use AOL"...

You'd think that a piece of antivirus/anti-spyware software, offered for free by a big-name ISP, would be a welcome development. After all, it's the experience of most of us computer geeks that people will pay several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars for a computer and refuse to pay $50 for AV software. And while I bless 'em for bringing me the extra coin for repairing their virus/trojan/spyware-addled machines, they're helping make the Internet unusable.

But wait, this largesse is coming from AOL:

While AOL doesn't ask for money, Active Virus Shield users have to agree to let AOL and its partners deliver ads to them. "As a condition for your use of the software, you agree to receive promotions and periodic e-mail messages from us and our affiliates," according to the fine print in the license and user agreement of the software.

Active Virus Shield collects a host of information that may be used for marketing purposes, starting with the e-mail address required to download and run the product, according to the fine print. Other data collected include usage stats, responses to ads and details about the PC, according to the AOL agreement.

Alongside the antivirus software, AOL ships an Internet Explorer toolbar. The Microsoft toolbar includes an indicator for the PC's security status, a password manager, a pop-up blocker and a link to a Web site for more information on suspicious sites, the Web company said. It also includes an AOL Web search box, which can drive traffic to AOL Search.

Hm-m-m. That sort of free doesn't sound so good, does it?

Need free AV software? Try AVG from Grisoft. Need a free firewall? Try Zone Alarm. Need free anti-spyware? Windows Defender is unfortunately the one to beat. (Although you can use Spybot and Ad-Aware Personal and do a great job as well.) But geeze, leave the AOL stuff alone, OK?

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