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Spyware or not Spyware?

I discuss spyware that’s not spyware, getting contacted by the manufacturer thereof, and what needs to be done.

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Hello everyone, this is Leo Notenboom of Ask Leo, on the internet at, with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at

When is spyware not really spyware?

The term “spyware” has come to mean much more than software that spys on you. In fact just about any malicious software that gets installed without your knowledge or obvious consent seems to be labeled spyware. A more correct term might be “malware”, for malicious software.

I was recently contacted by a representative of the Viewpoint Corporation, makers of the Viewpoint Media Player stating that Viewpoint is not spyware, and pointing me at their FAQ.

Now, Viewpoint may not be spyware, but one of it’s components, viewmgr.exe, is a very frequent search target of visitors to Ask Leo. Why?

  • Users don’t know what it is
  • They don’t know how they got it
  • And their firewall is reporting that it’s trying to access the internet

All behaviors that look and act very much like … spyware.

So how’s a user to know?

The Viewpoint FAQ goes a long way to explaining their particular situation, but by that time it’s too late. Many users will have already panicked and attempted to remove their software or worse.

Users need to know – up front – what they’re getting.

Manufacturer’s should do a better job of educating users on install. Viewpoint is quietly installed when you install several other software packages – AOL Instant Messenger, for example. Packages like this need to be more visible – they should be an optional, obvious, and explicit choice.

Users should pay better attention to what they’re installing. In my opinion: choosing a “default” install, ANY default install, is simply asking for trouble. Take the time to check out the options and know what you’re getting.

I’ll bet you’ll be surprised.

This is article 5246 – for related links, or to leave a comment, go to, enter 5246 in the go to article number box in the upper right. Add your comments to the discussion, I’d love to hear from you.

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