The newly launched Stopbadware.org initiative will shine a bright spotlight on entities that slip undisclosed extras into their packages.
Stopbadware.org uses the term "badware" in reference to spyware, adware, and other forms of malicious software that are packaged into software offerings and delivered to unsuspecting computer users. The initiative intends to publish the names of companies that spread badware and to offer related reports about such companies.
"Intruders are now in your house without your permission," said John Palfrey, co-director of StopBadware.org and Executive Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. "They entered through your computer to bombard you with sneaky pop-ups and install tracking software to spy on your every move and steal your most personal information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers, in order to sell that data to a stranger. StopBadware.org will shine a much needed light on the unethical activities of these companies."
The initiative also intends to offer guiding principles that can be followed by software developers. The principles include advice on prohibitive behavior, disclosure and consent, transparency, and more.
The initiative, developed by Harvard's Berkman Center and the Oxford Internet Institute, has the backing of Google, Lenovo, and Sun Microsystems, with Consumer Reports WebWatch taking on an advisory role. StopBadware.org is directed and advised by several industry experts, including John Palfrey of the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Jonathan Zittrain of Oxford's Internet University, and Internet pioneers such as Vint Cerf and Esther Dyson.
"We want to use the power of the network to win the battle against malicious spyware and other badware and we'll enlist every computer user to the fight by telling their stories and reporting the worst purveyors of these programs," said Susan Landau, Distinguished Engineer, Sun Microsystems.
The Stopbadware.org Web site includes a section where people can tell their badware-related horror stories and a section technically savvy people offer detailed analysis of any badware they might have encountered. Those interested are invited to become involved by joining a low-traffic annoucement mailing list or by participating in the Stopbadware discussion group, hosted by Google.