People often scoff when I mention the phenomenon I call corporate hegemony, part of which includes corporations that believe they are allowed to partake in activities against consumers that are, at best, ethically questionable and at worst, outright illegal, and would never be tolerated by the public were the government carrying it out. Among these activities is placing spyware on people’s computers and then when caught claim it is legitimate business practice under the guide of doing it to know what their customers want in order to best serve them. Yet another disturbing case of this has arisen as Sears found to be using spyware to track visitors. Fortunately with recent laws and regulations passed to help prevent such activity it turns out Sears may in fact be in violation of FTC regulations requiring spyware disclosure.
Personally, I believe all business spyware should be illegal. Period. No legitimate business should have need of such things and if they do then they aren’t a company long for the business world in the first place. The fact that a business would try to hide spyware within other legitimate programs or services shows that they know what they are doing is unethical, an invasion of privacy, and rapidly headed to the realm of illegality.
After all, how does knowing that I like to read and watch science fiction, listen to electronica music, play the occasional game, and research aerospace engineering help Sears sell me a bed, clothes, or a toaster?