Ask Jeeves Accused Of Pushing Adware

Anti-spyware writer Ben Edelman pokes at Ask Jeeves in his Does Jeeves Ask for Permission? article up today. He finds that the Ask Jeeves My Way and My Search software also installed programs without permission or consent.

These were programs gained by Ask Jeeves through its acquisition of Interactive Search Holdings last year. They've had a long history of similar acquisitions before the purchase, but it was something that Ask Jeeves denied. From our article about the purchase, Ask Jeeves: Why Buy Interactive Search Holdings:

Rumors that Interactive Search Holdings search toolbars contained adware or spyware have dogged the company for years. [Ask Jeeves CEO Steve] Berkowitz denies that current versions of the toolbars contain spyware, though he acknowledges that there were problems with policies of early distribution partners.

"[Interactive Search Holdings] policies are extremely clean," he said. "They're working very very hard to clean this stuff up. These guys don't even do an automatic update. They've spent a lot of time working with the spyware companies to make sure that they're not considered spyware."

The issue came up again earlier this year in the Is Ask Jeeves Behind Browser Hijackers? on the martinibuster blog, where the Ask tools were accused of generating log referral spam. The issue of them being spyware was raised as part of that.

I had a message out to Ask Jeeves about this at the end of February, because not long after seeing the post above, I noticed that the new Windows AntiSpyware tool had spotted my installation of one of the Ask tools and came back with a message calling MyWebSearch a "Toolbar Browser Hijacker" that installs adware, spyware and changes browser settings.

I was told MSN was supposedly clearing Ask Jeeves of these accusations but hadn't had a chance to follow up further. I've sent a message out for an update and comment about these new accusations.

Edelman also makes criticisms about the Ask Jeeves toolbar being pitched at kids and poor disclosure in a separate article: Ask Jeeves Toolbar Installs via Banner Ads at Kids Sites.

Postscript: Ask Jeeves has denied the accusations. See the Ask Jeeves Denies Spyware Charge & Other Accusations follow-up post.