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7. A Freebee - But Beware!
Can a free product that promises up front not to contain spyware be a problem?
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In December of 2003 we received the cute animated file below via e-mail. There is a link to a collection of cute smiley faces. This is not spyware or adware so what else might it be? Let's try to find out.

  What a wonderful thing!!!!!!!!!!

This is the enticement. It is a cute animation of the capture of Saddam Hussein, which occurred on December 13th, just four days before we received this.

The picture and tag line contain the link below. The "Partner" code means that someone will get paid if you do something they want. We have removed the actual partner ID.

http://www.smileycentral.com/?partner=Sample001

  • Choose from over 6,000 different smileys, icons, and animations! It's all 100% free.
  • Works with Yahoo!, Hotmail, Outlook, Outlook Express and more!
  • Includes My Web Search - Get instant search results from the Internet's best search engines and relevant results in response to address bar queries.

Clicking on the link or the graphic takes you a page filled with smiley faces, which you may obtain for free if you just click the flashing download button.

As you can see, quite a bit is offered for free. Note that in addition to smileys you will be getting My Web Search.

There is also a small link to the "EULA" (End User License Agreement). You should always read the EULA before installing any software. This EULA is on a page with the banner, below.

BY CLICKING ON THE "SUBMIT", "DOWNLOAD", "I ACCEPT" OR SUCH SIMILAR BUTTON OR LINK AS MAY BE DESIGNATED FOR PURPOSES OF INITIATING THE DOWNLOAD OF THE APPLICABLE FUN WEB PRODUCT SOFTWARE PRODUCT (THE "APPLICATION") AND USING THE APPLICATION YOU AGREE TO BE LEGALLY BOUND BY THESE LICENSE TERMS AND CONDITIONS. THE APPLICATIONS INCLUDE POPSWATTER™, MYMAILSTAMP™, SMILEYCENTRAL™, CURSORMANIA™ AND MY MAIL SIGNATURE™ SOFTWARE PROGRAMS, EACH OF WHICH IS COVERED BY THIS AGEEMENT.

ALL OF OUR APPLICATIONS COME WITH THE MYWEBSEARCH™ BROWSER PLUGIN -- A CUSTOMIZABLE BROWSER TOOLBAR WHICH PROVIDES END USERS WITH EASY ACCESS TO SEARCH RESULTS FROM THE BEST SEARCH ENGINES ON THE INTERNET IN JUST ONE CLICK AND ENHANCES YOUR BROWSER EXPERIENCE BY PROVIDING RELEVANT LINKS AND RESULTS IN RESPONSE TO MISSPELLED OR INCORRECTLY FORMATTED BROWSER ADDRESS REQUESTS.

THE APPLICATION ALLOWS YOU TO EASILY ACCESS ALL OF ITS FEATURES AND FUNCTIONALITY DIRECTLY FROM YOUR BROWSER. IT IS ALSO HIGHLY CUSTOMIZABLE AND ALLOWS YOU TO CREATE YOUR OWN BUTTONS AND LINKS.

ALL APPLICATIONS ARE SPYWARE FREE AND NO REGISTRATION OR PERSONAL INFORMATION IS REQUIRED FOR USE.

If you read the EULA you will be assured that this is not spyware or that you will be giving up personal information. The very first thing you see, before all the legal language, is reproduced at the left.

This page is rather sobering. You will be installing not one but six of the seven programs listed on the banner. There is no explanation as to why "Spin4Dough" is not included in the installation.

The next paragraph mentions that you will also install a browser plug-in called "MyWebSearch", which is not listed on the banner. This is certainly not the "fun" type of product that this Website is promoting.

The search plug-in will direct you to their search site whenever the plug-in feels you need to be. This appears that the main purpose for giving away the smileys; it is a simple means of getting you to switch to a new search tool.

Searches are big business and this makes it simple for them to get new customers. Remember that partner number? Someone may be making money whenever you search.

The Application is also subject to the Fun Web Products Privacy Policy, located at http://www.funwebproducts.com/privacy/.

If you wish to withdraw your consent to the communication and data usage as described herein, you should uninstall any and all of the Applications from your computer. You may uninstall or remove the Application at any time by following the instructions on our website at http://www.funwebproducts.com/uninstall.html, or using the Windows add/remove programs function to remove the following programs, depending upon with FWP components you may have elected to install:

My Web Search
My Web Search (AOL and Yahoo Messengers)
My Web Search (Outlook, Outlook Express, and IncrediMail)
Search Assistant - MyWebSearch

According to Section 5 of the EULA you can easily un-install the applications. The wording is a bit vague, not stating whether all packages will be removed.

The removal process requires using the Windows un-installer. Selecting "My Web Search Bar"removes the My Web Search toolbar and the FunWebProduct feature. Selecting "Search Assistant - My Web Search" removes the Search Assistant.

We have read stories at several tech support sites indicating that the fun components can indeed be removed, however, the MyWebSearch component stubbornly refused to be removed; we cannot confirm or deny these stories.

You understand, acknowledge and agree that the Application includes software that allows us to distribute updates and fixes. Such updates will occur only upon prior notice to you, except for the limited case where notice is not possible due to technical problems or an emergency that requires us to update the application in order to maintain existing functionality or to comply with the law. All such updates shall be governed by and made in compliance with this Agreement and the Fun Web Products Privacy Policy.

A little troubling, but probably not an issue, is the statement that they can update the software at any time and that normally, but not always, you will be notified first.

That seems a bit risky. Today the company may play fair but tomorrow anything is possible.

So, do you want your free Saddam Hussein smiley faces? We don't. We also don't want any smiley faces depicting Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Idi Amin, Slobodan Milosevic, Josef Stalin, or any number of other poor excuses for humanity. We don't think any of them are terribly humorous.

Web search engines are big business these days and the smileys appear to be a means of getting you to divert your searches to a particular search system. Their choice of honoring a vicious animal is rather unfortunate and we debated using the animated graphic at the top of this page for that reason.

We cannot speak for the quality of these products or the possible problems they may cause. We can tell you that we will not be using any of them. Our computers work very nicely, thank you, using a stock version of Internet Explorer and we have no problem manually typing Google's address into the address bar.


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