Researchers Accuse Sears Of Distributing Spyware

Not content with having some of retail’s worst customer service, Sears has decided to wring out more dollars from its customers by jumping into the spyware game. Sears recently sent out an email inviting customers to join “My SHC Community” where they will have a chance to earn fabulous prizes and journal their online shopping experience. All you gotta do is provide your address and install a little ComScore program that monitors your every single step on the internet, from Sears to Myspace to your online banking, to your email headers.

Separate analysis by researchers Benjamin Googins and Ben Edelman find that there is insufficient disclosure throughout the advertisement and registration process about the tracking program’s true nature.

In response to Ben Googins posts, Sears VP Rob Harles says that SHC “goes to great lengths to describe the tracking aspect.” Harles says “[c]lear notice appears in the invitation”, “on the first signup page”, and “in the privacy policy and user licensing agreement.”

Now, I took a look at the pitch emails and the installation sequence and I think a reasonably savvy user would recognize these warning signs: 1) looks lame 2) vague mention of “research” program’s installation 3) Pop-up box warns of installation of unnamed program by company you’ve never heard of – and abandon installation. But it’s possible that novice users could be caught unawares and unwittingly give permission for their entire internet existence to be documented by market researchers – and who knows what they’ll do with that information.

Sears admits to joining spyware biz [The Register] (Thanks to S.R.!)