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  • Fast Video Download for Firefox delivers surprise payload

    Posted on November 6th, 2009 schell No comments

    surprisewareI’m not a huge fan of surpriseware.

    If you recently updated the Firefox add-on, Fast Video Download from Applian Technologies, you may have noticed a little cartoon bubble now appears wherever you highlight online text. And perhaps like me you’ve become desensitized to all the little thingies that proliferate in the wiggly, wacky world of Web 2.0 and/or you didn’t detect a connection between the new icon and FVD.

    I, for one, do not appreciate being excluded entirely from the decision to install software on my system.

    In case you haven’t had a chance to investigate, the icon in question calls up a context menu for another (we’ll call it) add-on you won’t find in your add-on list: SearchMenu.

    SearchMenu, which apparently was named KallOut at one time, is among other things  —  you guessed it  —  a menu of search engines. What distinguishes it from the native Firefox search box is its ability to grab selected text and search with it, using one of many customizable choices of search engines listed in a convenient, right-click menu.

    The Add-on-Formerly-Known-As-KallOut appears to have been around for awhile (v1.0 in April 2008, according to the company website) and gets high marks from reviewers.

    I guess the developers weren’t seeing the number of installations they would’ve liked and decided to ‘partner’ with Applian to take matters into their own hands: SearchMenu silently installs right along with Fast Video Download.

    A quick scan reveals that SearchMenu is much more than just another handy Firefox tool  —  in fact, it’s adware.

    Now I, for one, do not appreciate being excluded entirely from the decision to install software on my system. It may even be a great tool, but sneaking software onto my PC irreversibly taints the experience and is just bad form. It also makes me inquisitive, so I decided to take a closer look.

    The trail leads back through a privacy policy link to the KallOut website [where, BTW, the name of the product is still in transition so things can get a bit confusing]. A quick scan reveals that SearchMenu is much more than just another handy Firefox tool  —  in fact, it’s adware. Among the disclosed uses for its proposed infoharvest: ‘to obtain relevant advertising content’ and ‘to provide anonymous reporting for internal and external clients’. I’ve seen enough.

    As for removing SearchMenu  —  since it’s not listed as an add-on, uninstalling Fast Video Download appears to be the only option and, to that end, does work. So at least until the developers regain their senses, a replacement for FVD will need to be found. Coincidentally, reviews of the current version indicate that FVD itself has slipped. I welcome any recommendations.

    Disturbing Sidebar: It looks like SearchMenu aka KallOut also takes the form of a Windows application, ‘seamlessly integrating…to deliver results in the context of any e-mail, document, presentation, spreadsheet or web page’.

    So if unfamiliar icons start showing up in your slideshows and Word documents, now you’ll know why.   §§§