December 09, 2011, 12:39 PM — Microsoft's announcement yesterday that it would require of customers the ability to reach into their personal PCs to disable, restrict, uninstall or repair software bought from the Windows Store made me realize how pervasive this sense of entitlement is among software vendors.
Mobile app vendors and the carriers involved are greatest offenders in the invasion-of-privacy contest, but with some justification, however inadequate.
Carriers have to track the location of customers in order to keep the network connections to their handsets alive.
The requirement doesn't go much further than that, but most carriers add monitoring software called Carrier IQ that tracks how well an app runs on their smartphone, what conflicts apps create for each other, and how well the carrier's own services are performing for that customer.
Great idea, except the software carriers install is also capable of auditing and reporting on all the apps, data and software living on a phone, all the keys a user presses, all the locations he or she has been and every person he or she has called, texted or emailed.
They do that without telling customers up front either what information they are collecting, or what information the software could collect if they wanted it to, or if some malware writer decided to take advantage of the spyware to collect information even more secretly and even more maliciously.
Microsoft's decision to extend the kill-switch, vendor-meddling, customer-paternalization policies to desktop software is a big step forward in the development of what I'm calling "weaselware."
Technically, weaselware is any information technology product designed or distributed for dishonest purposes – anything that, when you found out about it, would cause you to think the people who sent it to you are weasels.