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 user 2005-03-31 at 10:17:00 am Views: 40
  • #11187
    Lexmark spyware puts hardware in security spotlight 

    “SPYWARE” Will cause hardware companies to reconsider their licensing practices,
    a leading technology law firm has said.

    Experts at law firm Olswang believe hardware companies have to review their
    data-gathering tactics to play fairly with their customers.

    “The issue with hardware vendors is they are a little less far down the line
    [than other firms],” said Mark Smith, solicitor for Olswang. “The Lexmark thing
    will make them all think a bit harder. [Data gathering] requires consent. The
    question is, how clear is that consent? When you are talking about respectable
    vendors, there needs to be more clarity over what spyware is.”

    Lexmark and fellow printer firm HP HAVE ADMITTED TO ZDNET hat they use
    software to collect information on their customers’ printing habits. Although
    the companies claim that no personal data is collected, the Lexmark program
    gathers information on things such CPU and button usage.

    Smith said that spyware spanned across malware, adware and software, but that
    there needed to be a clearer definition of what spyware was to solve the

    He added that Microsoft was taking the lead on its information-gathering
    techniques as it provided clear opt-in choices over whether users declared their
    computing habits.

    “With malware there’s no question [of malicious intent], but with adware you
    might agree to it because it adds value to your life,” added Smith. “If it’s
    something that redirects my homepage, I am less likely to agree to it. But then
    there are legitimate licence agreements where you can opt in and opt out of
    certain parts. Microsoft is switched on and they are pretty responsible.”

    In a prepared email statement from Lexmark last week, the company said that
    the program, Lexmark Connect, was a voluntary program that was fully disclosed
    to users during installation. But the company failed to mention that it provides
    an opt-out choice box, in which the box is already ticked, rather than an opt-in
    – unticked — box on its installation screen.

    Lexmark said, “No personal information is collected. The information
    collected is simply operating information that will allow Lexmark to understand
    our customers’ printing habits and needs better, such as the number of pages
    printed, amount of ink used and how frequently product features are used.”

    “Customers who sign up for this program will receive additional optional
    surveys from Lexmark, and again this participation is fully voluntary. To
    discontinue to participation [sic] in this program, the customer can simply go
    into the Lexmark Solutions Center (the same one used to check the ink gauge,
    install a new cartridge, etc.) and click on the advanced tab, for instructions
    to Terminate his or her participation.”

    Last week, a Usenet news group, comp.periphs.printers, described the software
    Lexmark was installing on their PCs as “spyware”. They said that although the
    company claimed it took no personal information, the registration form required
    personal details such as name, address and the printer model number