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Yahoo clamps down on Claria adware

New anti-spyware tools from Yahoo detect pop-ups from longtime partner Claria, a move could put stress on the relationship.

Yahoo strengthened its new anti-spyware application to detect pop-up advertising software, including that of its longtime partner Claria, formerly known as Gator.

The Web portal said this week it updated and widely released Anti-Spy, software built into its pop-up blocking toolbar that helps consumers identify nefarious applications known as spyware that can overtake the PC with ads or sniff out personal data such as credit card information.

The update includes detection for adware, or software that monitors Web surfing behavior to deliver online ads, but which is thought of as a less-threatening cousin to spyware.

"We listened to the feedback we received from our users during the beta period, and have made a few minor modifications to Anti-Spy," Yahoo spokesman Aaron Ferstman wrote in an e-mail. He added that the changes are designed to help people identify programs that are potentially harmful or those that just might need attention.

However, the move could put stress on Yahoo's longtime partnership with Claria, one of the largest providers and makers of adware, which is detected and flagged for users of Anti-Spy. Yahoo subsidiary Overture Services has had an agreement with Claria since 2002 to provide keyword-related text ads to users of Claria's GAIN (Gator Advertising and Information Network) technology. The way it works is that Overture's ads appear on GAIN's pop-up windows, called Search Scout, which are triggered when users type in search queries on sites including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN and others.

The ads accounted for as much as 31 percent of Claria's revenue in 2003, or $35.1 million. That's up from only $3.5 million in 2002.

Overture representatives said the relationship is intact. The company said Claria operates within its partner guidelines for software makers; those guidelines stipulate that adware makers fully disclose what their product does to users and allow them to easily uninstall the application.

Ferstman said: "Claria operates within these (guidelines) and we will continue to do business with them so long as they remain with these standards."

Claria spokesman Scott Eagle said the company continues to have a "positive and growing relationship with Overture," whose contract with Claria lasts through 2007.

In a test of Anti-Spy by CNET, the software identified several programs installed with Claria's Gator eWallet service as adware. The Gator eWallet, which is designed to manage user names and passwords, is supported by adware programs identified by Anti-Spy as GAIN, Claria and Gator.

Yahoo's Anti-Spy incorrectly identified Claria computer code as SearchCentrix, a program in the "Hijacker" category, meaning it can redirect search results or change--in ways that are often hard to change back--browser settings without the user's permission, according to an Anti-Spy description. It also incorrectly linked the adware application Precision Time to the Gator eWallet.

Yahoo's Anti-Spy, which was introduced in beta earlier this year in partnership with software company PestPatrol, did not fully remove the adware programs.