It’s a very fine line between being a helpful tool and being spyware and now long time Social Media Optimization favorite StumbleUpon is working on blurring those lines. It seems that some odd behavior has befallen Firefox users who have recently upgraded to the latest version of the toolbar, version 3.15. This latest version comes with a changelog that announces this addition:
* Enables SearchReviews opt-in and configuration options for all users.
See: Toolbar -> Tools -> Toolbar Options -> Configuration tab -> Web Search
On previous versions of the Stumbleupon Toolbar you were presented with a choice as to whether or not you wanted your Google Search results injected with Stumbled info. The problem this time comes from the fact that even if you don’t want your Google results to be altered by StumbleUpon and you Opt-Out of this in your settings, you are still presented with an altered version of Google in a very sly way.
Here are the StumbleUpon settings, set to NOT alter your search results:
However, even with these settings turned off, a search on Google still produces a nice little link up at the top that reads See Friend Reviews in the same font as Google up with the rest of the Google Account Options.
This spyware-like behavior is also found on Ask, Yahoo, and MSN.
Wikipedia defines spyware as:
Spyware is computer software that is installed surreptitiously on a personal computer to intercept or take partial control over the user’s interaction with the computer, without the user’s informed consent.
– Wikipedia Definition
It’s fairly obvious that I’ve tried my best (short of uninstalling) to deny my consent to this behavior and though they state upfront that you are opting-in, the ‘configuration options’ section and options within would lead most users to thinking they could disable this “feature”. That, however is not the case and thus starts to blur the line between what is acceptable behavior in regards to your user information and what is actually spyware. Now it’s known that Stumbling is fun and that it can drive traffic and whatnot but surely they could come up with something better than this.
That said if you’re a fan of Stumbling you’re probably wondering:
How to disable StumbleUpon’s “See Friend Reviews” on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask.com
You have 5 options to disable this unwanted behavior:
- Uninstall the Toolbar.
- Have patience. The link will disappear on it’s own after three weeks.
- Get click happy. It will disappear after it’s been clicked three times regardless of your other actions.
- OBEY. This link will also go away if you sell your soul to Satan and complete the contact import.
- Go for Beta. The beta version of StumbleUpon will allow you to disable the prompt via the “Show StumbleUpon prompts and logos” checkbox on the Configuration tab of the Toolbar Options dialog
Now 5 different options of getting rid of this atrocity is more than Gator will give you. However all of these remain unpublished and unpromoted solutions to this problem. The fact is that even though they might garner some information which makes stumbling better and also new users from this approach, it’s obviously setup to benefit them way more than it would benefit the end user. And when you start digging around trying to figure out different ways to get rid of unwanted behavior from your favorite toolbar, you really have to start questioning it’s intentions in the first place.
UPDATE (11-25-07): It appears that version 3.16 of the Firefox StumbleUpon toolbar includes an OPT-OUT for this. Problem solved. Now you only have it if you want it, which is really how it should be.
posted by greg :: Nov.12.2007 ::
SMO Tools, Social Media Optimization
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