back to article How ComScore can track your mouse clicks

There's one question no one thought to ask: How did comScore know that all those paid clicks had disappeared from the world's largest search engine? In late February, the well-known web research outfit unveiled a particularly juicy report claiming that Google's paid-click rate was on the wane - at least in the States. Judging …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    o rly

    "We are not spyware."


    takes deep breath.


    opps, I just wet myself.

    Paris Hilton because I like tenuously linking her to every single story.

  2. b

    We are not spyware.

    Well, yes you are. That's exactly what this is.

    I can't even begin to understand the mind of someone who would willingly agree to this.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1xdrive by dowload here

    I saw the Relevant Knowledge turn up on a laptop about a year ago. The reasonably competent user didn't know how it got there, and the virus checker didn't find it. But it self-removed okay.

  4. Alex

    the world is sleepwalking in to a survelliance society

    welcome to the nightmare!

  5. Mark Land


    Their activities do not seem a lot different from those of convicted Botnet master

    And to be fair, "b" the point is they are not agreeing, who would take the time to read a 54 page agreement in return for a screensaver?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    *deep sigh*

    Does anyone else read these articles with a deep sense of dread and disappointment? Thanks El Reg - you do the community a great service in providing news as you do. But the news is scary. I feel almost militant when I read this stuff, I wish I could stop the crazy direction the world is taking.

    Time to start making some 'soap' from the rich fat people I think.

  7. Mark Malley

    Thanks for the wakeup

    Wow, I didn't even know something like this existed.

  8. dervheid
    Black Helicopters

    This makes...

    Phorm (spits in corner) look like a bunch of johnny-come-lately amateurs!

    BTW, I do not think we are "sleepwalking in to a survelliance society".

    Oh No.

    Were there already!

    This IS the nightmare!


    @Mark Malley

    I know neither did I! Thanks El Reg.

    So all I need is some info from the person (email address, postal address, etc) and I can get all their demographic information? Where do I buy?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Better get prepared !

    I'm sticking a bit of insulation tape over my webcam lens and mike.

    In addition to this I've invented a helmet made out of 2 inch thick lead as tinfoil is not adequate, but I need to solve the problem of being able to lift my chin of my chest. Any ideas how to solve this ?

  11. Funky Dennis

    This company has hit upon something very important,

    Namely, that there are so many people who will

    -sell their privacy for a geegaw

    -fail to read T&Cs (even the gist)

    -stay wilfully ignorant of the dangerous computer environment in which we live

    that they can bag up millions of them perfectly legally. They don't even need to break the law!

    Whenever I read a story like this I get angry at the company, but I also get angry at the computer users who don't even TRY to educate themselves. You all know the kind of person I mean.

  12. John Widger


    It should be illegal but with all that taxable turnover it won't be. Thanks El Reg.

  13. T. Harrell

    Boring Info Society

    Since ComScore seems to be so interested in us:

    I'm a 26 y/o male, unemployed full-time student

    If you check my credit report, I've got good credit, but obviously stretched to the limit with student loans.

    If you watch my purchase habits, you will see I buy used text books, and occasional <$50 electronic components and electronic test/build equipment, often on eBay.

    If you watch my browsing habits, I'm either reading The Reg, BBC News, various web comics, or random informational sources for study purposes.

    By all means, point your electronics related banners at me! I don't buy much, but that would at least be more interesting than the usual random crap.

    PS: Amazon: please stop desperately trying to sell me a lighter. I bought one several years ago. I still have it, and it starts fires excellently. I have no use for a second one. Perhaps a book on camping might be a more intelligent suggestion?!

    So, why do I care if anyone is trying to track my info? I'm unlikely to buy, and my info is pretty run-of-the mill, and just plain boring! I'm sure, if they look hard enough at all of us, they will realize that they just wasted a ton of money to find out that their ads are already about as efficient as they can be. Targeting ads to smaller, niche markets gets exponentially more expensive with incredibly diminished returns. I laugh at their lack of understanding of the powerful tech they wield. Ah ha ha ha!

  14. hi_robb

    RE : *deep sigh*

    I also read this with a sense of dread.

    I thought Phorm was bad but this is something else.

    Something I also picked up on was the Experian buying data about you from your ISP?


    Mines the skull because privacy is dead

  15. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Real Poker ......

    There are always two sides to a coin and just imagine how easy it is for such snoops to identify new talent, although of course, I'm sure they are all too well aware that they can be groomed by new talent too, which would require them to break cover to a certain extent, if the "goodies" are liable to moving on to competitors/into foreign fields.

    It is as well to accept that Nothing is Secret or can be Hidden in CyberSpace and Trust is built up with Full Disclosure Protocols so that Needs can be accurately matched to Feeds ... for Mutual Benefit and Continuity XXXXPanding and Improving Service.

    If you know a Hot Motor you'll buy into IT Sight unseen but something obscure and of questionable history, you'll take for a Test Drive and seek second opinions and/or more professional advice.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Logito ergo sum

    @T. Harrell. Are you really T.Harrell or has someone stolen your El Reg password and is pretending to be you? Go on. Prove it! Or has someone stolen your identity?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not for a screen saver?

    How about a service pack?

    Has anyone read the Windows XP SP3 agreement? The one distributed with the .iso file stand-alone version?

    - The Garret

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Nothing new really is it.

    Slightly aside, I watching TV, the mob are giving away a million quid in a free draw, all you have to do is sign up, get an insurance quote. Imagine if just 500,000 people sign up for the free offer, the DB with those 500,000 names, addresses and insurance quote dates is worth 20 times the million quid they are giving away, on the open market. That's what it's all about isn't it?

    T. Harrell, please I beg you, don't be so naive. Right now, you may not consider you are very interesting, but when you finally finish your studies and get out there and start pulling in the money and spending it, then they have a nice little picture of what happens when someone enters academia, how long they studied, what they studied how they spent their time, how little they had to offer, then what happened when they were finally out and earning. Every evil scumbag marketing company wants to know exactly how you spend you time and money, so they can target you, even if at a loss, they want to snag you now.

    Look at any kids TV, it's about snaring them about 2 mins after they come out of the womb to the moment they die! Even then it won't stop will it, where they die, of what, how, where did the reletives buy wreaths, rent the hearse from!

    It will never stop.. slippery slope is already here and we may be sliding down too fast to stop now. Try to make a stand though, simple action, cut up those supermarket loyalty cards and always run an ad blocker on your browser. Not much, but as "they" say, every little helps!

  19. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge


    "In addition to this I've invented a helmet made out of 2 inch thick lead as tinfoil is not adequate, but I need to solve the problem of being able to lift my chin of my chest. Any ideas how to solve this ?"

    Have you tried sticking your head up your arse instead ? You can then ignore all these issues or remain blissfully unaware of them.

    That seems to be the approach most people take these days. Is it any surprise that we are being dragged down into this nightmare of a surveillance society when most simply don't know what's going or don't care, giving those imposing it their, "most people are quite happy with it and want it" pitches ?

    I never understood why so many Sci-Fi plots incorporated the casualness of Suicide Booths. Having seen a glimpse of the future I do now. Better to end it all than have to live with this crap. Resistance is futile. The stupid will accept it.

    Mine's the ... never mind, you take it when I'm gone.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    AV companies?

    Why doesn't the AV folks include these apps in their virus scanners??

  21. Mike Powers
    Black Helicopters

    What about the data already collected?

    "But Chasin points out that anyone who's running comScore software is free to remove it."

    And so this sends a message back to ComScore to remove all of my data, then? They have dedicated teams of backup-miners going through every data tape line by line, making sure that if I opt out of ComScore then none of my Precious Bodily Fluids remain in their keeping?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A possible flaw

    So if someone installs this, agreeing to everything, does this really give ComScore permission to record the activity of that person's spouse or children?

    Or does the agreement also include stating that you are agreeing on behalf of everyone who uses the computer, making the installer liable for any legal issues that would arise? (If a family member's online baking password was compromised, for instance.)

  23. heystoopid


    So a more insidious version of form strikes again , that reflects the effects of addblocking software for both IE/FF too or so it would seem ?

    Evil is as evil does !

    They deserve to be roasted in hell or where ever the global warming is the hottest and driest without reliable electricity supplies for the Air Conditioning and Computers , a truly evil mob in more ways then one .

    Quick , turn up the heat !

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @AV companies

    Well, because it's not actually a virus. Even if some hacker installs it on you by a drive-by download, it doesn't infect other files, it doesn't propagate itself or try to spread, it just runs, and it uninstalls properly through the control panel when you want it to. And some people honestly don't care about their privacy and knowingly consent to install it in order to get the free software; I think they're daft, but it's their right to waive if that's really what they want, so plenty of installations are legitimate and by consent.

    So, it's just not a virus, and that's why anti-virus software doesn't flag it up. It would be to misdescribe it.

    Anti-spyware software, on the other hand, certainly will flag it up, because that's what it is. You should always back up your AV with the occasional ad-aware or spybot scan. And you're free to suggest to your AV supplier that their product would be better if it incorporated an anti-spyware scan as well as anti-virus.

  25. Jose Ramirez

    A title is required.

    And just exactly who gives a shit? If the MAJORITY of people affected by this are truly upset, companies like this wouldn't exist.

    Pardon me if I don't shed a tear.

  26. William Bronze badge

    Your cards are marked.

    You do realise that those who have replied to this post and have complained or raised grievances will be monitored even more closely now. Especially those posting anonymously.

    As for the TOR network, pull the other one. Its a honey trap, specifically designed to snare those people with something to hide. As soon as you connect to one your details are passed on by your ISP, as is all of your traffic from that point on.

  27. Will
    Gates Halo

    Sign me up

    At last, I have found you!

    Oh great one, I have scoured the web far and wide looking for a free screen saver and have found you at last.

    Please, sign me up. Oh lord, and here is my credit card number, in case you have a premium paid version of you miraculous service and want to charge me $50 a month for it.

    I just pray, oh great one, the screen saver is like the one with the 3D pipes I saw at a friends house one time with all those pretty colours, that is so coooool! Where do I click?

    <vomit, floor>

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @T Harrell

    This is seriously insidious stuff Mr Harrell and you're obviously too stupid to own a computer. Some camping books for you:

    The SAS Survival guide by John Wiseman

    Ray Mears Outdoor Survival Handbook

    Or were you looking for something along the lines of "The idiots guide on how to pitch a tent"?

    The university that admitted you needs nuking for being a complete waste of our hard earned tax

    Paris Hilton because f*ckwits like you make her look like a genius.

  29. Jay Giusti

    What would be helpful, Register:

    Great to learn about these schemes, thanks.

    Any reason why the story can't identify the sofware parts (type; name) so people can check whether perhaps another household user allowed it to be installed without informed consent, and remove/block it?

  30. ilago

    ComScore is listed in Add/Remove

    Ben Edelman is one of the most respected spyware researchers in the USA.

    It is spyware. I regard it as being as bad as the likes of Gator in that they store personally identified data. Not quite as bad as the range of malware that the big malware removal forums deal with. They are not usually particularly sneaky and someone has probably deliberately installed it even if they weren't aware of all the ramifications.

    Details of the installation and removal are here

    No you don't get your data and privacy back.

  31. Dynamatrix
    Thumb Down

    What would George Orwell think?

    It's quite shocking really that people arent more aware of the computing surveillance that goes on. Logging peoples mouse movements and click is quite honestly scary.

    Next they will be able to track people across the world using internet cafes just by the way you move and click your mouse.

    The larger concern is the way search sites track peoples online movements (i.e. Google). If companies did this kinda stuff in real life there would be murder, but because its online everyone is either clueless or just accepts it.

    Its equivilent to having someone follow my every move in real life. Make notes of what I buy, what I read, where I go.

    Here is a task for you.. go to your web browser and turn cookies off. Now go to any search engine and try and do a search.. see how far you get.

  32. michael

    re:Better get prepared !

    "In addition to this I've invented a helmet made out of 2 inch thick lead as tinfoil is not adequate, but I need to solve the problem of being able to lift my chin of my chest. Any ideas how to solve this ?"

    I recomend growing your hair long and fasserinig it round your leg to pull your head back

    or if that dose not work some sort of neck brace teh advantage of this methord is you can make it out of let to avoid them sneeking brain readings throught your spinal cord

  33. stizzleswick
    Paris Hilton

    Re: o rly

    No idea what an airport has to do with this.

    But anyway, as has been noted before, it is astonishing what people are willing to part with for a few gewgaws nobody needs.

    AMFM seems to be peculiarly lucid in his commentary today...

    Paris, because that's where Orly is.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Removal Instructions

  35. scott

    Bureaucrats , How to Annoy Them - redux

    Here’s an idea – why not “get even” in a similar way to the antics of the early 80s book “Bureaucrats , How to Annoy Them”? I envisage thousands of civil liberty geeks setting this cr@p up on a clean and zoned VM, with a bot which *only* does annoying things like once per hour going to their webpage and reading the T’s and C’s, clicks on banner ads that costs their major customers money, and types things like “STOP SPYING ON ME YOU FREAKS!!!”. The idea would be to skew their data enough to have your “profile” flagged as useless, or at least annoying enough it wastes a lot of storage on their side…

    Then of course people with a bit of spare cash could once per month demand FOI information from them, screenshot per screenshot and mouseclick by mouseclick.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re @Head-up-arse By Jason Bloomberg

    Hi Jason,

    I tried your tip of sticking my head up my arse, but I found it was a little dark so I lit a match but there was an enormous bang and suddenly I found that I had blown my eyebrows off and have 3rd degree burns on my chin.

    I think we need to go back to the drawing board on this one, if you could provide any more ideas I would be grateful as I really want the project to succeed.

    The other gentleman's idea of growing my hair and tying it to the back of my legs shows some promise but may take sometime to achieve as I only have short hair. I've rubbed some fertilizer in my scalp to try to hurry the process up, I'll let you know how this progresses.

  37. BitBotherer

    @Jose Ramirez

    If the MAJORITY of people in your country voted to kill anyone with the name Ramirez, that would be a democratic decision wouldn't it.

    Doesn't make it right though. Twat.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A C Re @Head-up-arse By Jason Bloomberg

    Absolutely brilliant, I nearly pissed myself, keep it up (not the head up the arse obviously).

  39. David Kesterson

    Hit job versus drive-by.

    Can the credit bureaus target particular people to have ComScore installed on their computer?

  40. Chris Cheale
    Paris Hilton

    One very important difference...

    ...between this and Phorm - at least comScore have made this very explicitly "OPT IN" and they at least attempt to remove underhand third-party drive-by installer companies from their distributor list.

    Yes, it's a massive invasion of privacy but really, they're not forcing it on anyone and they're (seemingly) quite open about it.

    If you want to sign up to medical trials where they give you a whole cocktail of weird chemicals and see if you go blind - you can. If you want to sign away your right to any privacy whatsoever - you can (hell, look at the sub-evolved simians that go on Big Brother).

    The only issue is that it seems that stupid people breed more and from an earlier age - maybe intelligence is an evolutionary dead-end. As the human species (d)evolves more of this kind of crap will abound until the only people annoyed by it will be that handful remaining with enough brain cells to percieve just how bad it all really is.

    Euthanasia please, while there's still someone left who can spell it.

    PH - the prosecution now rests.

  41. Francis Fish

    It would be more fun

    To randomise the data they take by installing something that mixes people up from different households and make the information completely valueless. $600m to nothing! Works for me.

  42. Geoff Mackenzie

    Re: Why doesn't the AV folks include these apps in their virus scanners??

    Hmm, I suspect they do. Only not the way you mean. :)

  43. A J Stiles
    Thumb Down

    @ AC

    "Why doesn't the AV folks include these apps in their virus scanners??"

    Because they are being paid not to, is why not!

    All anti-virus firms accept bribes from malware writers not to detect their latest offering. Every malware authoring team has their own "preferred partners" in the AV industry, to whom they are paying bakshish to stay undetected. There is nothing noble or heroic about what the AV industry does; they are every bit as corrupt as anyone else involved with the capitalist machine. All they care about is making money. Keeping your computer secure is *not* part of the game plan; because if your computer was secure, you wouldn't need them!

    If the AV industry had the slightest shred of integrity, they would make their products Open Source -- and recommend actively and loudly against Microsoft Windows, which enables malware by design which is too bad to be attributed to mere incompetence.

  44. Ferry Boat

    I'm ok because I run Linux

    oh, hang on... A quick google search of comscore and linux seems to indicate they are recruiting software engineers.

    apt-get install comscore

    It's in the interest of companies that you deal with to know as much about you as they can. That's why this type of thing exists, there is a market for it. It's not in your interest though.

  45. Glenn Charles

    Surveillance by pattern

    That's actually been used by NSA and therefore the lesser intelligence agencies since 1973, when some geek idiot suggested it. That moron should suffer from nightmares for the rest of his life.

    ...That's right. He does.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Real live challenge; here on the Reg

    @Chris Cheal

    “Yes, it's a massive invasion of privacy but really, they're not forcing it on anyone and they're (seemingly) quite open about it.”

    So, if your 14yr old daughter signs up to receive “Boyband Monthly” through the post for free - you would read 54 pages of T’s and C’s? How would you even *know*? If webcams suddenly appeared in every room in your house, and in car, you wouldn’t complain? Your daughter signed away the rights to everyone in the house when she signed on the dotted line after all…

    Tell you what, I’ll give you 5 quid a month if you put webcams around your house (provided by me, free of charge). Of course, I reserve the right to publish for profit anything I record via said webcams.

    AC, as with ComScore you won’t a flying f*cking chance of knowing where your private data is going.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    @AC RE:Head-up-arse

    Almost hurt myself laughing!

  48. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Nothing laughable here

    It is simply amazing how some people do not understand the far-reaching effects of what this kind of product does. Personally, the fact that this company does indeed appear to be more honest than typical malware does not make them better.

    Imagine this : a company asks you to let yourself be followed by a camera crew all day long, 24/7. You will even be recorded in your sleep. Anything that the camera picks up can be sold for profit to any number of TV channels, and you will gain nothing from it. Your life, even intimate, will be recorded whatever happens. Oh, they'll give you a motorcycle for all your troubles.

    Would you accept such a contract ? I know I wouldn't.

    Yet there are people who accept this for their surfing habits.

    My mind is well and truly boggled.

    On the other hand, what irony there is here. Scores of malware writers have tried to get this in under the radar, and are being foiled by every AV/anti-malware app out there. But these guys ? They're open and honest, and require that you blow your mind with reams of legalspeak before shackling you to the bench. Only after your explicit consent do they start whipping you until you bleed. And no AV vendor can go against it, because they are legal.

    Isn't the perversity of it all simply beautiful ?

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    Do they have a set of specific ports/IP addresses that I can just bang into a firewall rule? That way even if someone on my network does manage to install this nonsense it will not be able to report home. I already have Spybot hosts files distributed on the network.

  50. Sean Ellis
    Thumb Down

    Ever wondered why online ads seem to be so dumb?

    Could it be because the ad companies are only gathering data from people who are dumb enough to install things like this?

    However, that may just be a demographically interesting target market. It doesn't take a genius like Barry Scott to market things to these people.

    Look! Shiny things! Plates with kittens on them! Princess Diana muffin-o-matic! Genuine bakelite remnants of the True Cross! Shiny! Shiny! Buy now!

  51. Ben

    Is it just me , but ...........

    does Josh Chasin look slightly ODD in the accompanying photo?

    He looks like he's ill or SOMETHING , PROBABLY JUST THE PHOTO HUH?

    He "apparently" has 25 years experience in media and market research and

    you may find one Josh Chasin writing about his thoughts......................

    here : .

    and then if you need more ( it is fashionable after all ) a bunch of replies

    from other earnest , motivated , certified , professionals........choke ..

    God , why didnt i spend four grand with kludgeUteach , i could have been

    somebody , i could have been part of it , certified ..........

    I think they're really really funny , which is always nice , laughing y'know ?

    I nearly suggested that Josh and his friends check out Bill Hicks' riff

    on Marketing Executives if they want to make me laugh even harder.......

    course , Josh is Chief Research Officer , he'd probably want to check

    the numbers on that first .........aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha

  52. Fred

    As with most internet/privacy issues

    this software ONLY runs on a PC -

    use a Mac or *nix and then "driveby" downloads cant happen

  53. Alice Andretti

    Spyware sucks

    Someone wrote:

    "Here is a task for you.. go to your web browser and turn cookies off. Now go to any search engine and try and do a search.. see how far you get."

    Huh?? It works fine - been doing that for many many years, in fact. I'm in the U.S. though, is England different in that regard? (doubtful, but who knows...)

    I only turn on cookies, javascript, etc., when actually needed to do some specific task on some specific website (such as posting something or checking webmail etc), then I immediately turn them back off again (and delete whatever cookies resulted from the process) when that particular task is completed.

    It's easy, only takes a couple of seconds - in my browser it's just a few quick keystrokes to turn that stuff off/on. It's trouble-free as long as I remember what I'm doing, and it even works when I've got 34 tabs all open at the same time ;)

    Someone else wrote:

    "Could it be because the ad companies are only gathering data from people who are dumb enough to install things like this?"

    Yeah, I wonder something similar about some of the surveys out there, where the surveyors get their info from people who don't have a problem with phone telemarketers/surveyors interrupting their dinner with a bunch of stupid questions. How reliable is that data, anyway, and are the people who actually respond to the surveys (talk to telemarketers) representative of the general population? I doubt it (at least I would hope not).

    However, that might explain some of the bone-headed things that get foisted off onto the public by various companies.

    Another someone-else wrote:

    "this software ONLY runs on a PC - use a Mac or *nix and then "driveby" downloads cant happen"

    So far!

    Better hope Mac and *nix don't ever get *too* popular with the masses though, say up into the 50-percent marketshare or something, because that might change the picture a bit.

    Of course if that happened, someone could come up with some *new* previously-unheard-of alternative OS which spyware wouldn't be targeting yet... or else revert back to some primitive obsolete stone-age OS for the "security through obsolescence" or "security or obscurity" or however that goes (I forget exactly now) ... the cycle continues...


    Hell, even right now, if I was an evil programmer who wanted to write malware, I'd actually think about trying to specifically *target* present-day Macs because they would be least *expecting* it so maybe you'd be able to get away with more, before anyone noticed. I still use a Mac for a lot of stuff (and I also use Windows and Linux for a lot of other stuff, just depends on the task) and I've lost track of how many times I've seen/heard respected Mac users advise to "Oh, you don't need to run antivirus because there *aren't* any Mac viruses now, it's a waste of your money, the a/v companies are trying to rip you off, Macs are secure without a/v," I've even heard people say that Mac users don't need to use a firewall (no worry about funky software call-homes, evidently), well I'm not buying into any of that. Maybe call me paranoid ;)

    All it would take would be *one* motivated person, to write some nasty that would bring all that perception of security to a screeching stop. Sheesh, I mean just the very knowledge that so many Mac users allegedly *don't* run a/v would be enough motivation to get started writing some Mac viruses right away, because so many of those a/v-less machines would be defenseless - wouldn't they?


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