Google aims to tame Wild West

Google has heroically donned its cowboy hat, loaded its six-shooter, and teamed up with The Stop Badware Coalition (TSBC) in an effort to protect mild-mannered Net denizens from no-good, data-swipin', bad-ware spewin' Web sites, reports the IDG News Service.

If a user attempts to access a Web site via Google that the TSBC has deemed dangerous, he or she will be routed to the group's general warning page, which provides a non-specific explanation that "The website you attempted to visit has been reported to StopBadware.org as a site that hosts or distributes badware."

Badware is the coalition's all-encompassing word for "software that fundamentally disregards a user's choice over how his or her computer will be used."

The TSBC reports that with time, it will develop pages providing more specific detail about the dangers lurking behind the page a user has attempted to access, like this one for ThemeXP.org.

Techies and end-users alike are encouraged to report other digital purveyors of malicious code to the TSBC. Think of it as a neighborhood-watch program for the Internet -- with some heavy-duty muscle-support Sun and Lenovo in addition to Google.

I certainly applaud the effort, and any network admin who hasn't put the proper reins on his or her end-users should too. Who knows where your users are going on the Internet or what's ending up on your network as a result?

But I can't help but wonder whether Google and/or the TSBC are going to find themselves on the receiving end of some litigation from companies who don't much care for having their wares deemed bad.

After all, we saw companies like Claria, formally Gator, do it in 2003 when it filed a libel suit against PCPitstop.com for deeming Claria's products as spyware. Claria also convinced McAfee, Microsoft, and Aluria to reclassify its products (which stirred up some controversy in the tech world).

We've seen companies wage legal wars against organizations and users accusing them of being spammers.

And let's face it: The Internet is still a lot like the Wild, Wild West: It remains largely untamed, plus it a mighty big place with plenty of open space from which sleazy personal-data rustlers and malware spreaders can do their dirty deeds.

What do you think? Are the efforts of Google and The Stop Badware Coalition going to be effective, or is it merely going to be a teeny, ineffectual, and possibly costly Band-Aid for an enormous, ever-spreading Internet infection?

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