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Thread: Is Deleting Spyware A Crime?

  1. #1
    Frustrated Mad Scientist
    Join Date
    Dec 2004

    Is Deleting Spyware A Crime?


    It's quite long so I'll not quote the whole thing.

    It is basically suggesting that if the user gives consent through a EULA to install spyware, and the clearer the EULA the stronger the argument, that the user could be guilty of breach of contract by using an anti-spyware program to remove it.

    Thus, the key difference between unwanted and unlawful spyware and "legitimate" software is simply user knowledge and consent. Both might actually collect and transmit personal information, muck up system and registry settings, be hard or impossible to alter or delete, and might disable itself or other programs upon removal. But did you know and consent to having it installed?
    The problem is worse for anti-spyware programs, which essentially automate the process of breaching consumer contracts. This is assuming that the consumers actually agreed to the terms and conditions under which the spyware was installed -- generally not a valid assumption. Essentially, the spyware distributors would argue that the anti-spyware purveyors are inducing their customers to breach their contractual obligations, and are tortuously interfering with their contractual relationships with those who knowingly downloaded the spyware.
    The article isn't as clear cut as the title suggests but it is an interesting point of view and a hint the way thing could go if the spyware companies continue to try to 'ligitimise' themselves.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2003
    IT can be considered against the EULA if you gave consent (as in it is packaged with a certain other program you install and want) but that just means they can make you stop using the program. An extreme case of this would be disabling the registration feature of MS products. You are altering their product there for violating your user agreement.
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  3. #3
    Well the EULA doe not mention that the s/w is a spyware and will do all sort of baad stuff,does it ???Well then i guess that then removing that is not sooo bad.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    The way i understand EULA:

    EULA : If you want to use our software you must agree to the following. If you don't you may not use our software. Also if you do this this or this we can do unpleasent things with you.

    What you are now saying:

    You violate the EULA by deinstalling. logical would then be that you can no longer use the software because you violated the EULA. So where is our problem ?

    Sure there are some programs that also install spyware when installing said program and yes you will have to keep up with said spyware.

    All the antispyware programs i use have told me that in some cases deinstalling spyware can lead to certain programs not working. Because you know this beforehand I see no real problem.
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  5. #5
    Frustrated Mad Scientist
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    The spyware would have to be mentioned clearly in the EULA for the spyware companies to claim that the user had given informed consent and then go on to claim a breach of contract.

    You can't claim informed consent if the EULA does not mention the spyware or what it does.

    You can bet that any sort of spyware EULA would be a master class in spin and symantics so as to facilitate their claim to informed consent without actually providing any intelligable information to the end user.

    I've just written that as future tense but spyware agreements as they stand now are expertly designed to avoid mentioning what they do and what your rights are.

    Plus most users never read the EULA anyway and just click yes to whatever is in front of them.

    Personally I doubt any user would end up in court for uninstalling a spyware app but... after everyone has been sued by the RIAA the ambulance chasers will need something new to do.

    I thought the points raised by the article were worth chucking out for discussion.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Hrm... well...

    Once you own the software in question, you are pretty much entitled to do whatever you want with it. Sort of like buying a car under the condition that you will never open the hood. The same question has come up a lot with people modding Xboxes, wondering if that's legal. Once they own the Xbox, they are entitled to do whatever they want to it.

    Of course, with many software licenses, you do not in fact own the software; merely a license to use it. I would imagine that the legality of this would depend heavily on the wording of the EULA, and whether or not it gives the user ownership of the software or simply the privilege of using it.

    Also, the companies in question may be unaware of any policies regarding the use of the networks on which they are spying. A user may simply not have the authority to overrule those policies. I may also have a policy on my network stating that "this agreement supersedes all others, written or otherwise" of which they may be unaware.

    On another front, certain agreements may violate privacy laws in some countries. In Norway, for example, an individual's rights to privacy are indivisible. That is, he/she cannot sign those rights away in any agreement. There may also be laws governing the wording of contracts where privacy rights are signed away, which these EULA's may violate.

    But it definitely in muddy waters legally.
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  7. #7
    ********** |ceWriterguy
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    I'd be very interested in seeing this one tried in a court of law.

    Mrs |ce's handy 'rules for contracts' states:

    In order for a contract to be valid, it must not be an agreement based on something illegal. For example, if John Q signed an agreement with Fred F to murder his wife for a certain amount of money, the contract is invalid (and a crime called conspiracy, which we won't get into here).

    Along this same vein, the EULA's allowing the installation of spyware, which is also illegal in the US, makes that EULA invalid.

    I'm not sure if this means that we can alter the code of the software or make free copies because of this or anything, but I'm very sure the spyware aspect of it is null and void.
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  8. #8
    Regal Making Handler
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Contracts normaly involve a two way agreement, which would suggest discussion. When installing software there is no discussion. Just a one dimensional request for agreement. I would like to see what happens in a court of law, if someone was able to change a EULA to there advantage.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Originally posted here by |3lack|ce
    Along this same vein, the EULA's allowing the installation of spyware, which is also illegal in the US, makes that EULA invalid.
    Installing spyware is illegal? I can see where bypassing security measures or doing it without the users knowledge could be considered this way, but if it is part of an installation and included in the EULA how can this be illegal? I don't see any laws being broken there.

  10. #10
    And what about those nasty softwares that get installed without any message or something that would display the EULA like the IST family of spywares, MediaAccess, Internet Optimizer etc. ????? When there is no EULA, I must be having the freedom to do whatever I want with them? Besides when did these malwares start having an agreement with us for spying on us?

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