Spyware or Adware? The SaveNow Debate

SaveNow is described as an add-on program, often bundled and distributed with downloadable programs by DivS player, Bearshare, Imesh and other vendors.  The program was developed by WhenU who states that SaveNow is merely useful adware.  However, it tracks every website you visit on the internet and generates pop-up advertisements based on your web surfing patterns.  It also automatically downloads updates from a database without consent while collecting a variety of additional information.  Because of this, many critics have termed SaveNow as a spyware application. 

Spyware vs. Adware

There has been much debate amongst security experts and software vendors about what is useful adware and what constitutes as intrusive spyware.  According to security experts, the following factors should be used for clarification:

- adware clearly displays it's presence and purpose during installation, whereas spyware does not

- spyware generally gives no benefits to the user

- spyware tracks a user's online surfing habits and other behavior then reports it to a remote location

- adware programs are simple to remove manually, whereas spyware typically requires anti-spyware software

SaveNow: Considered Spyware

The fact that SaveNow often comes included with three well known spyware applications makes this software very questionable.  Distinguishing spyware from legitimate adware has been an ongoing dispute that can be looked at from many different views.  Despite the claims by WhenU, several critics continue to classify this program as spyware because of the following characteristics:

Inaccurate Disclosure - adware must clearly display it's presence and purpose upon downloading and installing of the program.  Many individuals attempt to install SaveNow with drive-by download methods using Active X controls.  The presence of this software also may not be clearly stated when a user has certain security settings. 

Automatic Downloads - a few of the SaveNow variants automatically download updates to a user's computer.  This is often combined with the process of collecting more data without the user's knowledge.  Legitimate software companies rarely function in this manner and often give a user the option to consent before making updates. 

Difficult to Remove - Many variants of the SaveNow program have no "Add/Remove Program" entry in the control panel of Windows.  This makes the software very difficult to uninstall as the BHO (browser helper object) it uses must be completely removed, a task that often requires the aid of anti-spyware software.     

WhenU has since made changes in the way it distributes software and to our knowledge, the company no longer user third-party vendors or bundles to distribute their programs.  Distribution of their software appears to be in-house and any bundles only contain other products by WhenU.

The company also claims that their software does not track user data, employ adware tracking cookies, or create a centralized database of user data for any purpose other than user profiling. 

While the WhenU company has cleaned up their act somewhat, many of the characteristics found in their software indicate that SaveNow is much more than friendly adware.  Several companies operate in this manner to persuade users into the belief that these type of programs are not spyware.  If you are not comfortable with having your personal data collected and receiving updates you didn't approve, we strongly suggest staying away from programs such as SaveNow. 


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