Merriam-Webster Defines “Spyware”
By Eric Goldman
A lot of attention has been directed to Merriam-Webster’s addition of Google to its dictionary–as a verb, no less. I’m sure the Google trademark department isn’t thrilled about the genericide implications of this.
Meanwhile, this announcement overshadowed another significant addition to the dictionary: Merriam-Webster also defined the term “spyware” as follows:
software that is installed in a computer without the user’s knowledge and transmits information about the user’s computer activities over the Internet
I thought this was a competent and pithy (22 words!) definition. It captures what I think are the three essential elements of spyware:
* the software watches user behavior
* the software reports this information somewhere other than the user’s hard drive
* the software isn’t consensual
Perhaps this definition will become the long-desired standard definition of spyware. Productive dialogue is only possible with standardized nomenclature, and the Anti-Spyware Coalition definitions, while competent, haven’t really emerged as the standard.