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Sears Installs Spyware 201

Posted by kdawson
from the naughty-naughty dept.
Gandalf_the_Beardy writes in with news that's been around a while but is getting more attention lately. Last month Benjamin Googins, a security researcher at CA, determined that Sears Holding Corp. installed ComScore spyware without adequate disclosure. Sears said, yes we tell people about tracking their browsing. On Jan. 1 spyware researcher Ben Edelman weighed in, noting that Sears' notice occurs on page 10 of a 54-page privacy statement, and twits Sears because its installation identifies the software as "VoiceFive" and later claims it's coming from a company called "TMRG, Inc." even though a packet sniffer confirms the software belongs to ComScore, adding "These confusing name-changes fit the trend among spyware vendors."
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Sears Installs Spyware

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  • Sears is evil. (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheDarkener (198348) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @12:42PM (#21896002)
    My dad worked for Sears as an appliance repair tech for 25+ years. The stories he's told me about their tracking their employees, their customer "service" practices, sales approaches, etc... is just plain wrong. He was constantly intimidated by "the boss" to perform better or he would be fired (even though he was the top performing tech in the area). It was nothing but stress for him and I wish he had never worked for them.

    Now he works for a small appliance/TV repair shop, and he absolutely loves it. Just another reason to flip the bird to big corporations - they don't care about people, they care about money. The spyware installation on their own customers' computer systems is just one small example.
  • Re:Sears is evil. (Score:5, Informative)

    by pilgrim23 (716938) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @12:49PM (#21896112)
    I also worked a time for Sears. I can confirm the above. Their motivational technique was equal part bombast and intimidation. Not a fun company to work and play with.
  • Tell StopBadware.org (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @12:59PM (#21896306) Homepage

    StopBadware [stopbadware.org] should hear about this. It's exactly the sort of thing that gets a company a big red X on the StopBadware site. Plus some really bad publicity.

    StopBadware is sponsored by Harvard Law School, Oxford University, and Consumers' Union. There's heavy legal firepower available if needed.

  • Re:Sears is evil. (Score:4, Informative)

    by jcgf (688310) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:00PM (#21896318)
    I once worked for Sears Canada in their Regina call center. Your dad was not exaggerating.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:02PM (#21896342)
    If you're buying screwdrivers and wrenches and pliers anywhere else, then you're going to the wrong place. You can take a 25 year-old pair of (Craftsman) pliers back to Sears and go "I broke it" and they'll give you a new one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:03PM (#21896368)
    My guess is that morality never crossed their mind. The thinking probably went something like this:

    Spyware company: "We'll pay you $5 per machine to install this software on all the computers you sell."

    Sears exec: "Oh, like AOL or Symantec do. Are you legit? Is this legal?"

    Spyware company: "Yep look we're a big company, and you just need to disclose its presence somewhere in your EULA. Here's some example text to include."

    Sears exec: "Done deal."
  • by rah1420 (234198) <rah1420@gmail.com> on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:55PM (#21897374)
    IDK about identity theft, but you should read the comment that "heather" left on the CA blog [ca.com] about "managemyhome.com," another Sears web site. Apparently all you need is a name, address, and phone number and you can log on as that person and view purchase history from Sears for, what I would surmise, is the big ticket items like refrigideezers and washers.

    Now that's almost criminal.
  • by radish (98371) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @02:04PM (#21897544) Homepage
    That's actually not universally true. I've sat in a lot of meetings with very senior, very well paid people (and their associated lawyers) and have heard them literally say "we wouldn't be breaking the law, but it wouldn't look good in the press". Many companies value their image and reputation extremely highly and doing something which leads to the company being embarassed, even if it's 100% legal, would be a firing offence.
  • by wytcld (179112) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @02:15PM (#21897748) Homepage
    First off, Sears isn't Sears anymore. Sears was bought by Kmart after Kmart was bought by what became Sears Holdings [seekingalpha.com], which is controlled by hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert [investopedia.com], who apparently is incompetent:

    In the period ended November 3, the company earned a sickening $2 million (1 cent per share). That's far below the $196 million ($1.27 per share) it earned in the same period last year. It's also 49 cents below what analysts had been expecting.
    That's right, under his management profits went down over 99%. I've been to his stores, and the merchandising is awful. There's certain stuff I'd rather buy from Sears and/or Kmart than Wal-Mart, Home Depot or whoever, but the stocking and selection is so haphazard now that, except for the Sears appliances, the only thing you can count on finding is bizarre junk on sale.

    And now with this story, maybe it's time to stop even trying. (I had a minor loyalty to Kmart because I'm originally from their part of the country; and to Sears because the Craftsman guarantee policy is good.)

"It's like deja vu all over again." -- Yogi Berra

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