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AOL Users

by LarryD / February 10, 2004 11:43 PM PST

This is from Spyware Weekly Newsletter http://www.spywareinfo.com/newsletter/archives/0204/11.php

AOL is force installing unwanted software

Most people will agree that AOL's internet service software is bloated garbage. Certainly I never would want something like that installed on my computer. It is invasive and unnecessary to install that sort of software to connect to the internet. For that matter, no ISP software at all should be necessary for an internet connection.

Recently, however, AOL has sunk to a new low. Both AOL's internet software and the AOL Instant Messenger program (AIM) are force installing unwanted software called Viewpoint Media Player on people's computers.

There is no option to not install Viewpoint. In fact, if you remove Viewpoint, it will be reinstalled the next time you load AOL! I could hardly believe it when the first person reported this at the message board. Then a dozen more people showed up to report the same thing.

Viewpoint Media Player displays certain multimedia content over the internet. I discovered this software on my own machine last April and I DID NOT AT ALL like finding it there. The reason for that can be found in their privacy policy:

The software creates a unique tracking number ("Customer Unique Identifier" is their term). This number and other information is transmitted, without asking, to Viewpoint servers. The software downloads updates and installs them on the computer, also without asking.

The privacy policy states that "The Viewpoint Media Player will soon be capable of tracking information about the content it displays and how the user interacts with it. When the Viewpoint Media Player displays Viewpoint content, it tracks the URL it is served from, as well as Viewpoint file data tagged by the author in XML. This data can include, but is not limited to: the names of objects and textures displayed, and the names of animations invoked."

Combine all that with the fact that it is installed without permission or proper disclosure. I'm sorry, but you do not install software on my computer that transmits data across the internet without my permission. For that matter, you don't install any software on my computer without my permission, period.

After finding this thing on my computer last year, I sent Viewpoint a letter asking how it is distributed. From their reply, I determined that AIM had installed it. I then downloaded a fresh copy of AIM from AOL's web site and installed it again (I had removed it months earlier). There was absolutely no disclosure whatsoever that it was going to bundle Viewpoint.

There are other things that AOL software does. For instance, some software such as Netscape and ICQ 2000b will insert free.aol.com into Internet Explorer's "Trusted" security zone. When you put a web site in the "Trusted" zone, Internet Explorer will allow that site to download, install and execute any piece of software completely without interaction with the user.

The reason for AOL inserting that entry became clear when we started spotting ActiveX files from free.aol.com in people's HijackThis log files at the message board. AOL is inserting their web site into the "Trusted" zone so that they can install software without the user knowing they are doing it!

AIM is adware. That is, it displays a small banner ad in the program and it also pops up an advertisement window when you launch it. Recently, AIM has even started to download movie trailers and play them at random intervals. You heard me, AOL is using peoples' internet connection to download huge video files in order to play movie trailers.

Both AOL's internet service software and AIM also install a piece of software called Wild Tangent, again without asking. Wild Tangent is used to play games and other multimedia. Some Winamp plugins also use it. The problem with Wild Tangent is that it installs an autoupdater and turns it on by default.

Wild Tangent's updater will transmit data about the computer on which it is installed. That data includes hardware specs, some information about installed software and how the user is interacting with the software. The company says this is done to see how their software is used and that they might share it with third parties. Several antispyware products detect and remove Wild Tangent.

When are software developers going to understand that they cannot transmit data from a person's machine without their permission? There are laws forbidding data theft, so why are they allowed to do this? When are they going to understand that they cannot download and install software without permission?

There are better and cheaper Internet Service Providers. Go to BroadBandReports and find one. There are other instant messenger programs that will let you use the AIM network as well as several other networks such as Yahoo and ICQ. Two very good multi network instant messengers are Trillian and GAIM.

AOL has been losing more subscribers over the past couple of years than they have gained. They are going to lose far more if they don't change this behavior. This is unacceptable and I would never put up with AOL's behavior. I suggest you don't put up with it either and find a company who will treat you with some respect

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I so appreciate this.
by celebratejesus / June 29, 2005 2:29 AM PDT
In reply to: AOL Users

So much so, that I am going to remove the AOL Messenger I downloaded the other day. I hope I can get all the "garbage" off my puter. Please write me if you have any suggestions on "cleanup". I am not a puter wiz but long ago I determined that AOL was no better that a virus.

Thank you again, denise in bama

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Thanks, Larry D ! AOL is foisted on those newbies who...
by tobeach / June 29, 2005 2:53 PM PDT
In reply to: AOL Users

don't know any better 'til its too late ! Being newbies, they also know not of Spybot or Adaware which would warn them. Unfortunately many fall for the free disks & the ''Americas most popular'' bit. Many older users are likewise unaware...which is why we're here!!! Happy
P.S. Perhaps you should re-post in Newbies Board too !

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by auggief / June 29, 2005 4:46 PM PDT
In reply to: AOL Users

"There is no option to not install Viewpoint. In fact, if you remove Viewpoint, it will be reinstalled the next time you load AOL"
I removed it and it hasn't come back.

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by GAMExxxOVER / November 27, 2007 12:10 PM PST
In reply to: Viewpoint

you said you removed it and it has "not" come back, is this correct? if so how did you go about removing it. I have removed it (viewpoint) in the add/remove programs page, and done a computer file search for key word viewpoint and deleted everything related, but the second I click on the aol icon to go online it is instantly all back. I dont even sign on, just click the icon! I am stuck with aol for now and dont currently have another choice, but I seriously need help getting rid of the AOL media player, I hate it, I want my windows media player to be default player when on sites and I click on a music file. I have made WMP the default for all files but the crapy AOL media player jumps infront of the line and takes over every time. anyone know how the heck to kill the aol media player for good and still use aol? Please share

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by Bugbatter / November 28, 2007 1:35 AM PST
In reply to: Help

Try ViewpointKiller. You may download it from this link.
Once you have downloaded ViewpointKiller, unzip it to a convenient location such as your desktop. Run ViewpointKiller, and select File > Do All Killings. Follow the prompts, selecting Yes or No, depending on which selection you are most comfortable with.

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Viewpoint killer
by GAMExxxOVER / November 28, 2007 7:29 AM PST
In reply to: Viewpoint

Yes I cam across that program yesterday and it did work to get rid of viewpoint and kept it off my system.
But the dang aol player still came up. but I finely figured out I had to go to settings in the aol tool bar, then to multimedia settings and unchecked aol media player.
Thanks for the response though.

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Instructions for complete removal of Viewpoint software
by michhala / November 29, 2007 3:27 PM PST
In reply to: AOL Users

In March 2007, I went to Viewpoint website and telephone their Support. Their tech, Juan, sent me tutorial for removing Viewpoint.

Hello Miki,
In this email are tutorials for removing registry keys, uninstalling the toolbar and disabling the viewmngr.exe.
Hope these help.

Follow these step to delete Viewpoint from your registry:
Note: Deleting Viewpoint from your registry will not guarantee that the Pop-Up update will not return. Viewpoint software is installed through applications such as AOL or AIM. Deleting registry instances will increase the chances of the Viewpoint Toolbar returning.

1. Click on the Start menu and Select run
2. Type in regedit and hit enter
3. Click on the plus sign next to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
4. Click on the plus sign next to Software
5. Right Click on the Viewpoint folder and select delete

If you have any problems deleting these keys, please reply to this email and we'll work with you to make sure that everything is deleted.

You can uninstall the Toolbar by clicking on the Viewpoint logo on the left side of your browser, highlighting Help, and selecting uninstall. Note: We recommend that you close all Internet Explorer windows after you uninstall the Toolbar. Otherwise, the Toolbar will remain on your browser window.

1. Press CTRL + ALT + Delete
1b. If by chance you also have AOL and or AIM installed on your computer, than you must close their windows
2. From the Task Manager select the processes tab.
3. Find and select the Viewpoint file in the list named viewmgr.exe and select "End Process"
4. Delete The Viewpoint folders in your system drive's program files and Document and Settings folder

Miki to Juan at Viewpoint:
After following the instructions on tutorial, for ?turning off the viewmanager?, Search did not find any files for Viewmanager or Viewpoint Media Player on my HD program or docs and settings; however. Viewpoint Media Player is still in Add/Remove. My AOL ?customized scenic? desktop disappeared, but that is not a ?biggie?.

I have not yet removed Viewpoint folders from HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE or HKEY_CURRENT_USER because of tutorial?s statement, ?Deleting Viewpoint from your registry will not guarantee that the pop-up update will not return??Deleting registry instances will increase the chances of the Viewpoint Toolbar returning?.

Miki: Do I need Viewpoint Media Player for AOL to function or can I uninstall with Add/Remove.
Juan: You may find that there will be problem with AIM's Superbuddies and some of AOL's graphics if you do not have the Viewpoint MEdia Player
(I uninstalled through Add/Remove without any resulting problems )

Miki:. If I no longer have Viewpoint Media Player, will removing registry keys from HKCU and HKLM still encourage Viewpoint pop-ups?
Juan: Removing the Viewpoint files may increase the chances of getting a pop-up for the toolbar. In this case you can simply click on "More INfo" in the pop-up and then "No Thanks" and you will not get another pop-up.
(I removed from HKCU and HKLM and never received any further popups).

I also disabled Viewpoint Manager in MMC Services

From March 2007, no Viewpoint software has reinstalled itself on my computer.


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