Thursday, January 03, 2008

Spyware and shopping

Ars Technica reports on an unintended consequence of shopping online at the Sears and Kmart websites. If you take up an invitation to join a new "community", a small spyware application gets installed on your computer and this tracks your every online move, not just on the Sears site but everywhere:

late last year, and began asking users if they wanted to participate in a "community" online (presumably a community made up of Sears and Kmart aficionados). In late December, security researcher Benjamin Googins at Computer Associates noticed, however, that the "community" actually installed software from comScore, a market research firm, in order to track the web activities of the sites' visitors.

Googins stated on his company's blog that Sears had installed spyware which transmitted everything—"including banking logins, email, and all other forms of Internet usage"—to comScore for analysis. This was all allegedly done with no notice that anything was being installed, and it ran contrary to documentation about the community that said any data collected would stay within Sears' hands at all times.

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