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OpinionSpy resurgent

Posted by on February 12, 2015.

Some of us were slightly confused back in 2012 when Intego flagged a problem with the alleged spyware/adware program security vendors usually call OSX/Opinionspy.

According to Intego, users were required to install the program – claimed to be a market research utility – but reported to have  as part of the installation process for a number of screensavers and at least one other application made freely available and obtainable from legitimate sites. Intego’s original post was replaced for a time by a less detailed article, though what I’m pretty sure is the original article seems to have been reinstated subsequently: worth reading for its detailed listing of the features that led the company to identify it as spyware in the first case.

While it’s unusual for a security company to make less information available as it learns more about a (possible) threat, it may be understandable in this case. The site in question may have changed its approach to something more acceptable, perhaps as a result of Intego’s original article, and even seems to have persuaded a Guardian journalist that the whole thing was scaremongering by the security company. Intego reported later that while (according to Charles Arthur), 7Art had stopped distributing PremierOpinion, it later re-introduced it into the installation of some of its screensavers. While I can’t claim to have conducted an in-depth personal investigation, that did seem to be the case: however, by the time I revisited the site to check for myself, the installation seemed to be both overt and optional. Methusala Cebrian-Ferrer published an excellent technical analysis at that time, so I didn’t pursue it any further.

A few days ago, however, Thomas Reed flagged what appears to be a more recent version in article on The Safe Mac – OpinionSpy is back! – and after further research by Intego, Graham Cluley has published an article on the company’s blog that expands on the story: OpinionSpy Rears its Ugly Head on Macs Once Again. Graham reports that ‘Intego researchers have confirmed that Mac users downloading an app called Free Video Cutter Joiner by DVDVideoMedia might be getting more than they bargained for.’

During installation of the video utility, the user is apparently explicitly prompted to install PremierOpinion, so calling it spyware would seem incorrect. However, Intego is concerned that some people may not realize how much information about their system and online experience they might be sharing with market researchers, though the PremierOpinion ‘disclaimer’ states that it makes ‘commercially viable efforts to automatically filter confidential personally identifiable information’. I’m not a lawyer, but that seems a little non-committal to me…

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

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