What is “Spyware”?

Once you start looking at “things,” the classification problem pops up everywhere. What’s “spyware”? The answer depends, in large part, on what consumers should be expected to do in response to different sorts of code:

Labels such as spyware and adware cut a wide swath, with many gray areas that can spark disagreements among software makers, consumers and security experts over legitimate and illegitimate practices. Now these basic categories are poised for an overhaul, as federal spyware legislation moves forward and companies like ComScore push for finer definitions from the security companies that are largely responsible for classifying specific products one way or the other.

Depending on how these changes are handled, consumers could face an even more bewildering labyrinth of warnings and terminology over little-understood products such as Marketscore and dozens of other products up for grabs on the Web.