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Beware Geeks Bearing Gifts

Thanks to Steve over at Gibson Research Corporation we now know for a fact that RealNetwork's RealDownload, Netscape/AOL Smart Download, and NetZip Download Demon utilities are tracking your downloads.

What does this mean?

Every time you download something using one of these utilities a packet of information is sent to the mother company with the url of the file you are downloading along with a code marking your specific computer and your current IP address. YOU ARE BEING TRACED. Well, maybe they just have the information sent to them and then they discard it. We don't really know what they are doing with the information they are collecting. But we do know they are collecting the information.

It might be nice to collect information on folks downloading child pornography and they give it over to the FBI. Could be interesting. Can't say I'd mind child porn disappearing off the net. But what about Record companies getting court ordered access to see if you've been downloading Napster? Hmmmm, might be an invasion of privacy which many would be uncomfortable with. But let's say you happen to be a raving record company executive and feel that the ends justify the means and there is no harm in a little invasion of privacy. Okay, maybe. But what about those of us that download a simple utility and don't want to be profiled and marketed because we demonstrate an interest in midi utilities?

What possible use of profiling can they have in mind that won't lead to spam, advertising, and marketing?

This is just a heads up. I'd suggest staying away from download utilities such as RealNetwork's RealDownload, Netscape/AOL Smart Download, and NetZip Download Demon until they can demonstrate that they's stopped having the program send packets home to "Big Brother".

Mean while what is so wrong with just using Netscapes click and download feature. You remember the good ol' days before NetZip? You remember you'd just click on a link and stuff would be downloaded?

Any how, go to The Anatomy of File Download Spyware for a very complete techie discription of what's happening.