back to article Sears admits to joining spyware biz

A Harvard researcher has accused one of America's biggest retailers of sneaking privacy-stealing spyware from ComScore onto customers' machines. Sears Holding Corporation, owner of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart, makes the pitch in an email sent to people shortly after they provide their address at Clicking the " …


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  1. Ian Michael Gumby

    No Excuse for this...

    Sears should be held accountable for this breach of trust.

    There is no excuse and the executives should have known better.

    10 to 1 there's a class action brewing.

    BTW the flame isn't against El Reg, but K-Sears. (K-mart bought SHC)

  2. Ole Juul

    Sears software

    The first two hits on Google for "Sears spyware" sends you to the Sears pages for anti-spyware by ZoneAlarm and Encore Spyware Doctor. I wonder if these are special versions or if they just forgot to take them off the shelves.

  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Sleazy credit card billing too

    Sears also charges your credit card at the moment you place an online order, not when it's delivered. For a home appliance, that can be $1000 charged two or three weeks early. It violates the policies of many credit card companies.

    "You are correct that our web site charges right away when permission is

    granted by submitting ones credit card information to place the order."


  4. The Mighty Spang
    Thumb Down

    what font for 54 pages?

    3000 words is 54 pages? frightens the shit out of me trying to write a 1500 word essay... no way i can write 27 pages on this crap...

  5. Tuomo Stauffer

    You were warned

    You were warned so don't complain! The EULA I have coming out next year with my product will have the footnote on page 666 which is written in Word 2003 and if you can't read it, your bad. It has a Flash cross link to another node ( and some code to read all your open pages ) where you are redirected to another site, required by your government, so don't come back and say you didn't know! Happy New Year.

  6. Andy Worth

    Personal thought

    Well, personally I think that any invasive reporting software like this should have an official "spyware" title attributed to it, and in their privacy statement the very first line should have to be "THIS IS SPYWARE". It'll never happen though, and companies will be allowed to continue to dump invasive software onto your machines with the minimum of warning (or by hiding the warning in a huge document, somewhere, that they know no-one will read properly).

    Of course, personally anything that suggests it is going to install software on my PC would be a case of "I'm shopping elsewhere" but there you go.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    does their spyware work on Macs or Linux boxes?

    no further comment necessary

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    a Sears vice president vigorously defends the practice

    One question : would he still "vigorously defend the practice" if he were strapped to a tree and threatened with a hundred lashes ?

    I think we should give it a try. Bring back corporal punishment for white-collar crime !

  9. Tim
    Jobs Horns

    Ah, but

    They knew they'd get caught out eventually. Nevertheless they now have reams of priceless marketing information on the browsing habits of millions of their online customers. Even if they get a fine or a slap it'll still be worth it.

    Do they give a toss if it's illegal? No, because the consequences of getting caught are nothing compared to the proceeds of the crime - which they get to keep anyway.

    Evil Steve, because he's a public corporation CEO.

  10. Eugene Goodrich

    "goes to great lengths to describe the tracking aspect"

    54 pages, apparently...

  11. andy

    Anyone know?

    Anyone know what else this software did apart from spying?

    I mean there must have been some other 'carrot' to lure people into installing, right?

  12. Count Ludwig

    Sears - are you listening?

    Sheesh, another of these "X are you listening" posts. IGMC (see icon)

  13. Pete
    Thumb Down

    @Anonymous Coward

    Take your Mac/Linux zealotry elsewhere. Noone cares!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whose call to condemn the evil?

    I took pause at the quote, "Edelman, who is a frequent critic of spyware companies, ..."

    Isn't that kind of like being a 'frequent critic of drunk drivers' or a 'frequent critic of Taliban commanders'?

  15. Marc Jacques

    2,971 words? 54 pages?

    C'mon now! Either the word or page count is incorrect. Basic arithmetic shows that there are only 55 words on these pages. There are at minimum 300 words on a page (12 words per line, 25 lines). And that's if the page contains double-spaced type. Such obvious errors are really sad in "investigative"-type journalism. I mean, how are we to hold confidence in the substance and veracity of the report if errors such as these so easily creep into the mix. Logic and fact-checking can work wonders...

  16. EJ

    Just add it to the "bizarre" pile over there...

    Sears has a history of making some very odd, customer unfriendly decisions over the years. Take their stance on after-market parts for Craftsman items. They provide a self-help kiosk in the parts department to look up the air filter/spark plug/etc. part numbers for that Craftsman lawn mower/snow blower/string trimmer/etc you bought. If you can't find your specific model on the LCD display, you're instructed to call their 800 number. So when you can't find the model, you whip out your cellphone and call right from the store. You speak to a rep who says they "can't give you the part number, but if you hand your phone to a Sears associate" they'll tell them the part number and then they can get the part off the shelf for you. Now, you may wonder why they won't tell you, and will only talk to an associate, unless you purchase it over the phone and pay the inflated shipping costs. You'd be told it is part of their effort to prevent people from purchasing knock-off products. How do they know you aren't simply calling from a competing hardware store down the street, trying to siphon off their valuable info? I'm sure this prevents 98% of people from effectively obtaining that crucial information, as they probably don't figure out they can read it off the part packaging once it is in their possession. And probably another 50% of the remaining 2% that do come to that realization never figure out they can have the associate show them the part, but then put it back on the shelf and never have to actually buy the part, instead walking out and purchasing desired part elsewhere. Perhaps there was a 54 screen usage agreement somewhere within the kiosk application that prevents all of that?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    comScore might be a bit miffed to have it called 'spyware'

    Given that comScore is an established internet measurement company, they might not appreciate their software being called spyware. Yes they have major issues of distribution, and no, their panels are not exactly the best, but the data they provide are an industry standard and (in theory) quality checked etc.

  18. gizmo
    Thumb Up


    Bugger off Pete. That was a fair question. You must be new around here.

  19. Miami Mike

    Avoid Sears - they ARE the plague!

    I'm in banking and finance in the US - if you ever decide to utterly destroy your credit rating, doing business with Sears is a good place to make it happen.

    Sending your payment in on time or even before it is due is no guarantee it will be posted timely. I've seen consumer credit reports with 60 and 90 day lates on them from before the Sears account was even opened! Sears *prefers* people with substandard credit because they know these people are likely to incur massive late fees. Getting any of these mistakes corrected is almost impossible, even if you have an attorney do it.

    It gets worse . . . a good friend of mine had a massive stroke, after many weeks in the hospital, they let him out - couldn't walk, could barely speak, this man was destroyed. Sears sued him for the $1,200 balance on his Sears credit card - they wanted his wife to sell their home so Sears could get their $1,200 plus late payments and interest. It is OK to park his wheelchair under a bridge, but at least Sears will get paid.

    Once, in a moment of extreme weakness I bought a washing machine from Sears - it was the make and model I wanted and the price was right. Wrong. It never worked from day one, and as far as Sears' slogan "Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back" went, it took me over a year to get anything back, and I had a good lawyer as well.

    If Sears opened a store in Kabul, then the Taliban would REALLY have something to be pissed off about. In the meantime, if you wish to live a happy and pleasant life, stay away from Sears and keep their spyware off your computer.

  20. Sean M

    How 2971 words is 54 pages

    This web page gives a detailed description :

    There are 2,971 words of text, shown in a small scroll box with just ten lines visible, requiring fully 54 on-screen pages to view in full

  21. Walter Brown

    El Reg Missed! an important part of this story...

    Dan, youre fired!

    you missed a very important part of this story, you failed to report on the fact that users get 2 differently worded privacy policies depending on if the spyware app is already installed or not, users who have already fell victim get direct verbiage stating the nature of the spyware, where people who have yet to install this spyware get a softer, more toned down version, both versions of the privacy policy are accessed via the same URL...

  22. Morely Dotes

    Re: comScore might be a bit miffed to have it called 'spyware'

    Osama bin Laden might be a bit miffed to be called a terrorist. Stalin might have been a bit miffed to be called a monster. Paris Hilton and both Spears sisters might be a bit miffed to be called whores and idiots.

    Sometimes the truth is insulting.

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