In Browser “Spyware”

I found for some of my blog posts I need a screens shot plug-ins for my browser. So I first downloaded and installed, Awesome Screenshot Capture. However, after a recent update my browser was running slowly. So I investigated and found each page load was being referenced to superfish.com. I knew that I had not installed a plug-in which should be contacting superfish.com. So I had to look around I did some Googleing and discovered that superfish.com has a package which can be used by plug-in developers to monetize their Open Source software. Basically the developer gives away their product for free, while superfish.com gets their user browsing data and pays the developer some sort of fee for helping them collect the data. (The best review I can find explaining how this works.)

While I have nothing against the business model and the plug-in works well, I feel a bit undercut. See, when I installed the plug-in it did not contain the superfish.com addition. My update program told me I needed to update so I did. I trust Firefox, and I trusted the developer. So, I feel that this was a bit of a switch-and bait tactic used by the developer, or certainly a “change in business direction”. While the plug-in is technically Open Source, unless one is code savvy, the code is not going to change. While one could say that I should have read the reviews, the reviews were not necessarily there when I installed the plug-in.

In my case superfish.com was still being contacted when the plug-in was was told not to activate that part of the plug-in. So I went and found another plug-in in the FireFox extensions repository.

superfish.com and screen shot FF extension.

superfish.com and screen shot FF extension.

This is the lesson:

Not all Open Source software is good for you, and sleazy things can happen with updates. So read the update notes and the reviews when updating.

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