Adware is any software application in which advertising banners are displayed
while the program is running. The authors of these applications include additional
code that delivers the ads, which can be viewed through pop-up windows or through
a bar that appears on a computer screen. The justification for adware is that
it helps recover programming development cost and helps to hold down the cost
for the user.
Adware has been criticized for occasionally including code that tracks a user's personal information and passes it on to third parties, without the user's authorization or knowledge. This practice has been dubbed spyware and has prompted an outcry from computer security and privacy advocates, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Noted privacy software expert Steve Gibson of Gibson Research explains: "Spyware is any software (that) employs a user's Internet connection in the background (the so-called 'backchannel') without their knowledge or explicit permission. Silent background use of an Internet 'backchannel' connection must be preceded by a complete and truthful disclosure of proposed backchannel usage, followed by the receipt of explicit, informed consent for such use. Any software communicating across the Internet absent of these elements is guilty of information theft and is properly and rightfully termed: Spyware."
A number of software applications, including Ad-Aware and OptOut (by Gibson's
company), are available as freeware to help computer users search for and remove
suspected spyware programs.