AIM add-on sparks privacy concerns

America Online began offering games along with the latest version of its instant messenger, and now some customers are worried that the company is playing with them, too.

People who use AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) started complaining on AOL message boards and publications such as BroadbandReports.com after software bundled with AIM 5.5 began showing up in "spyware" scans. The popular chat application includes games from WildTangent, which has a tool that reports back to the company every time someone uses its products. WildTangent CEO Alex St. John denied that his company is doing anything improper. "It's not doing anything sneaky; it doesn't pop up anything," he said. "It tells us how popular a piece of content we release on the Internet is."

Benign or not, the software and the controversy it has sparked highlight growing sensitivity among consumers over unexpected surprises accompanying free software downloads over the Net--and the potential backlash facing companies that seek to quietly gather data on their customers.

News source: C|Net News.com

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