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What is Spyware?

Strictly speaking, "spy-ware" is computer software that gathers information about a computer user without the user's knowledge or informed consent, and then transmits this information to an organization that expects to be able to profit from it in some way.

Data-collecting programs installed with the user's knowledge are not, technically speaking, spyware, if the user fully understands what data is being collected and with whom it is being shared.

More broadly, the term spyware is applied to a wide range of related "mal-ware" products which are not spy-ware in the strict sense. These products perform many different functions, including the delivery of unrequested advertising (pop-ups in particular), harvesting private information, re-routing page requests to illegally claim commercial site referral fees, hijacking the web browser homepage and installing stealth phone dialers.