RealPlayer Software is sneaky

StopBadware.org Labels RealPlayer Software as Badware.

Two versions, two different badware behaviors

StopBadware.org, the consumer protection initiative developed to combat badware, today released an alert about RealNetworks Inc.’s RealPlayer software application.

The group found RealPlayer version 10.5 to be badware because of inadequate disclosure of advertising behavior, and RealPlayer version 11 to be badware because it bundles an additional application without disclosure.

RealPlayer 11 is the current version of the application, offered on http://www.real.com as an Internet video and multimedia player.

RealPlayer 10.5 is an older version which is still widely distributed through such sites as BBC Radio and through the Firefox web browser’s “missing plug-in” capability.

The report highlights two areas of concern:

1. The Software does not fully, accurately, clearly, and conspicuously disclose the principal and significant features and functionality of the application prior to installation.

The advertising software bundled with RealPlayer is misleadingly called a ‘message center’, and is described incompletely and inconspicuously in the EULA (End User License Agreement) as software designed to provide useful software updates.

When RealPlayer 10.5 is installed, the advertising features of this ‘message center’ are enabled by default for users who choose not to register their personal information with RealNetworks after the software is installed.

2. Software installs deceptively.

RealPlayer 11 does not disclose that it installs Rhapsody Player Engine, and does not remove this software when RealPlayer is uninstalled. Users are not informed by the installer or uninstaller of the connection between RealNetworks and Rhapsody Player Engine.

“Software producers have a responsibility to inform users, clearly and unambiguously, about what software will be installed on their computers and what it will do,” said Maxim Weinstein, manager of StopBadware.org at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. “RealNetworks does not allow users to make an informed choice about how their computers will be used. We hope to see a new version of RealPlayer soon that addresses these concerns.”

A full copy of the report can be found here.

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