Google and Spyware

On February 1, 2005, Google announced record revenues of $1.032 billion and profits of $303 million. Just like everyone else in the world, I was blown away. What a great company! The stock market seemed to agree since Google’s stock price hit a record high after their earnings announcement.

But there’s something that has been bothering me and many others in the antispyware community about the search engine juggernaut. And that’s Google’s ties to spyware.

Spyware companies are making lots of money sneaking onto your PC’s. They are spending lots of money too–on phony anti-spyware review sites
and enticing free software like screen savers or even security software. Their goal is to trick you to download their payload of spyware.

But they’re not the only ones in the act. Antispyware companies are making lots of dough too. More and more less than ethical companies are spending tons of money trying to get you to use their antispyware solution. Frankly, some of these products are horrible. In the worst cases, they will install even MORE spyware on your system.

Can you trust these companies just because Google’s name is on top?

What do all of these companies have in common? They do business with Google. We are experiencing this problem first hand at PC Pitstop, since our site tends to attract people with inexplicable PC problems like spyware. Notice the Google ads on the right of many of our pages. We were getting so many complaints that we had to take the Google Ad Bar off of our pages strictly centered around spyware. We lost a LOT Of money removing the ad bar from our spyware pages, but we just could not afford for our visitors to end up with more spyware and no solution to their problems.

Notice on the Google Ad Bar that it says on top Ads By Goooooogle. Over a year ago, it did not say that, but they added their name on the ad bar.
Why? Because people trust Google. They have a sterling reputation. But now they are using this sterling reputation to subtly endorse every spyware dirtball out there.

Google’s profits are being made at the expense of PC Pitstop’s reputation. Last week, we received this email from one of our users:

I’m shocked. I’ve always believed that PC Pitstop and anything connected with its website was squeaky clean. Yesterday (02/19/2005) I saw an ad (it is still there today) entitled “Tune Up Your PC- Free” posted by I decided to check it out. It was offering a free trial of PC Power Scan by Integrated Search Technologies.

The write up sounded like it might be a useful tool. I downloaded the free trial, installed it and ran it. It came up with a bunch of supposed problems on my PC. Before allowing PC Power Scan to fix the problems, I decided to check it out thru Google. There were some articles that indicated it was a some sort of spyware.

I ran PestPatrol and it came up with 96 Hijacker entries – all placed on my machine by PC Power Scan/Integrated Search Technologies!

I am, now, very gun shy regarding PC Pitstop.

Users blame us, not Google. All the more galling is that Google does not give us the tools to manage a problem of this magnitude. We can block particular site names, and we have blocked this one, but these guys change their site names more than Paris Hilton IM’s on her SideKick. Plus there is a ceiling on the number of sites that we can block. One has to wonder why one of the smartest and most technologically sophisticated companies in the world cannot give us the tools to block spyware companies from advertising on our site.

We believe that sneaking software on someone’s PC is just wrong. And making money doing it makes it even more wrong. I hope that Microsoft integrates their antispyware solution into their next browser, choking off the air supply to thousands upon thousands of spyware companies. That will be a great day indeed. And Google’s stock price should take a noticeable hit as it loses a key source of revenue. Yes, that would be a fine day indeed.

Editor’s Note: We were contacted by Intrigue Learning Services, the makers of PC PowerScan. Our user confused their product PC PowerScan, with a real piece of spyware called PowerScan by Integrated Search Technologies.

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