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µTorrent Spyware/Adware Claims Refuted
May 24, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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µTorrent began as a BitTorrent favorite. Its small memory and CPU consumption footprint, coupled with a total package size of less than 1 megabyte and near-full functionality, gave few people a reason to complain against this BitTorrent client.

The honeymoon came to a screeching halt on February 28, 2006, when PeerFactor and µTorrent announced a six month deal to distribute authorized content online. This drew the ire of the µTorrent community, who remember the days when PeerFactor was affiliated with French anti-piracy company RetSpan. The two companies separated in late 2005 however, and the newly formed PeerFactor SARL are now working on P2P distribution software rather than anti-piracy technology, (although their website is still linked from the RetSpan homepage.)

The controversy blew over, and µTorrent avoided a disaster.

Being the magnet link for controversy it is however, µTorrent is once against finding itself the center of attention. This time, reports of third party software (adware, spyware) have begun to shake some of the µTorrent faithful.

The latest version of µTorrent, version 1.5, contains an integrated search feature. The end user can opt to search several of the major search engines, such as Mininova, ThePirateBay, TorrentSpy, and isoHunt. Once the search is conducted, an independent browser window is opened. Instead of going to the Mininova.org domain however, the browser is directed to NanoTorrent.com. Once redirected, the browser displays a 728x90 UseNext ad, along with the queired torrent files. UseNext is a newsgroup portal that offers “anonymous, uncensored access to Usenet.”

But does µTorrent’s affiliation with UseNext advertising earn the label of being an adware or spyware client?

Definitely not. When the P2P curious download µTorrent, they only receive the µTorrent client and nothing else. No tracking cookies, no data miners, and no Bonzi Buddies.

“Nothing else than µTorrent is installed, like it always has been,” Ludvig Strigeus told Slyck.com.

Once the banner ad appears, one may question whether information is subsequently collected via data miners or some other clandestine method. Reassuringly, the ads are simple HTML delivered banners via Ludvig’s owned NanoTorrent.com website.

“Nothing is placed on the user's machine [when the NanoTorrent browser opens,]” Ludvid explains. “It's an advertisement inside the web browser only, the ad comes from a webserver owned by me, and it's removed when the window is closed. No cookies at all are installed, not even my own…The ads are generated by the script on the webserver. The µTorrent client as such does not contain any ads. They are generated by the webserver and shown through a php script to the webbrowser when the user searches.”

The arrangement is part of a standard affiliate program, where µTorrent benefits financially whenever a new user signs up for UseNext. Additional testing found no evidence of any third party or malicious software. By comparison, it’s little different than conducting Google search via FireFox’s plugin. µTorrent may use ads to support development, however Ludvig's creation is not an adware client.

µTorrent took considerable effort to avoid including third party software in their client; and opted to keep the ads dedicated on an independent domain. Not every file-sharing client does this, and speaks volumes on µTorrent’s commitment to keep the reputation of their client intact.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
BitTorrent :: BitTorrent Clients
Technology News :: Spyware/Adware

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