It’s not unusual to see popular freeware applications bundle third party software into their setup files, prompting you during the installation process to install a browser toolbar or even change your browser home page to something else. Many criticize this practice claiming it preys on unsuspecting users who click "Next" through every setup screen. While I also find it annoying, I realize that developers need to make money somehow – and as long as there is an easy way to opt-out during installation then I’m okay with it.
But recently the popular Digsby instant messenger client has been accused of bundling so much ‘crapware’ that it has become a risk to your privacy and bandwidth.
During installation you are prompted for as much as six different pieces of junk software – all offering a ‘Decline’ option – as well as a new homepage and search engine. As ridiculous as that sounds, taking a deeper look at Digsby’s Terms of Service, Lifehacker found a much shadier tactic buried in fine print: the outfit can use your idle CPU cycles to run distributed computing problems that make them money.
This is also 100% optional according to the program’s developers; the problem is Digsby doesn’t explicitly ask for your permission during installation. In order to opt-out you have to click the Help menu item, find the “Support Digsby” option, and then disable “Help Digsby conduct research.” It’s not so much about the revenue model itself but the lack of transparency regarding this that has people up in arms.
They did announce the research module program back in December 2008, but if you are not an assiduous reader of their blog (which is probably the case for most) or are a new user then you probably missed it. Fortunately, the company is acting quick after being called out on their behavior and has issued an updated version of Digsby that makes things more transparent.
Two particular changes were mentioned: moving the entire “Support Digsby” section out of the “Help” menu and into the preferences window, and a popup notification telling you about the module via a “Learn More” button. What do you think? Is this good enough or should they outright drop some of the bundled crapware instead?