RealPlayer named by StopBadware.org

The antispyware organization says RealNetworks needs to disclose installations of advertising software and Rhapsody before users install updates.

StopBadware.org said Tuesday it has labeled two versions of the RealPlayer media player as "badware," or spyware.

RealPlayer 10.5, it claims, "fails to accurately and completely disclose the fact that it installs advertising software on the user's computer." And RealPlayer 11, it claims, "does not disclose the fact that it installs Rhapsody Player Engine software, and fails to remove this software when RealPlayer is uninstalled." Ryan Lukin, PR manager for RealNetworks, disputed some of the claims.

Lukin said the Message Center in 10.5 feeds only news and information, product updates, movies, video clips, and is clearly identified during installation. He said the change was that the check boxes in 10.5 were prefilled (requiring you to opt out), whereas in version 11 they were blank (requiring you to opt in). Lukin disagrees that the content served through the Message Center qualified as advertising.

As for version 11, Lukin said that by virtue of being a full-service media player, RealPlayer needs the Rhapsody ActiveX component because people may want to hear Rhapsody-encoded music clips. He agrees that once RealPlayer is uninstalled, the Rhapsody software should also be uninstalled. Lukin said RealNetworks was looking into making this change in a future release.

In the meantime, StopBadware recommends that users do not install either versions of RealPlayer, "unless the user is comfortable with the software behaviors we identify or until the application is updated to be consistent with the recommendations in this report."

Full details of the StopBadware.org alert about RealPlayer can be found on the organization's site.

About the author

    As CNET's former resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security.

     

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