White Paper on Downloadable Products

 

My Search My Web Search

My Way Search/My Web Search

What is the product?

The My Way Search/My Web Search Toolbar is a browser search tool compatible with Internet Explorer (4.x or above) and Netscape 4.x. The Toolbar displays algorithmic search results from Google, Ask.com, Yahoo and LookSmart, along with sponsored listings, primarily from Google. Users can add or remove additional software products to the Toolbar. These products include Smiley Central, Popular Screensavers, Cursor Mania, My Mail Stationery, My Mail Signature, HistorySwatter and PopSwatter. The Toolbar provides direct access to content on the My Way portal and users may add buttons accessing My Way content to their Toolbar.

The Toolbar’s customizable features include the ability to select a default search provider, as well as the ability to add, remove, and reorder the buttons. In addition, users can create up to 5 personalized buttons on the Toolbar, each of which can include up to 40 personalized links.

Users also have the option to clear their search history, to enable offline browsing and to display certain of the Toolbar’s buttons in color or black and white.

The Toolbar requires a minimum of a 486 Processor, 16 MB RAM, VGA display, and a mouse in order to operate properly.

The My Way Search/My Web Search Toolbar and all enhancement products are free to use.

How does a user get the product?

The Toolbar is distributed by subsidiaries of Ask.com in connection with products developed by Ask.com. These products include Smiley Central, Popular Screensavers, Cursor Mania, My Mail Stationery, My Mail Signature, HistorySwatter and PopSwatter (the "Fun Web Products"). For these products, My Web Search Toolbar is included in the download and is the means by which a user accesses the Fun Web Products application(s). That is, users can add or remove Fun Web Products buttons to their Toolbar. These buttons allow a user to access the corresponding Fun Web Products software and services.

In each instance, the Toolbar and the Fun Web Products are the only elements of the download. Since the Fun Web Products software is accessed via the Toolbar, it cannot be uninstalled without removing the Toolbar (it can, however, be deleted or added to the Toolbar).


Is the product "Spyware" or “Adware”?

No. The Toolbar does not collect any personal information, does not monitor the sites a user visits, does not monitor a user’s behavior on the Internet, does not log or track keystrokes, does not serve or facilitate ads, and is completely spyware-free and adware-free. Specifically:

·         The Toolbar software does not collect personal information. The Toolbar does not solicit or collect a user’s name, address, or email address nor does it require a member name or password. The Toolbar does not attempt to collect personal data upon startup or at any time as a requirement of use.
 

·         The Toolbar does not track the websites visited by the end user (or any related click-stream activity), and does not monitor or scrape information when users are on other websites.
 

·         The Toolbar software does not serve or facilitate “contextual” advertising or pop-up ads.

The Toolbar provides a customizable search experience on an anonymous basis and without any adware, spyware, additional monitoring, or contextual ads.

What are the guidelines by which the My Way Search/My Web Search Toolbar is distributed?

When distributing the Toolbar, Ask.com, through its online advertising:

1.      Provides clear and prominent notification that the Toolbar is included as part of the download.
 

2.      Prominently provides a link and opportunity to review the End User License Agreement (“EULA”) prior to installation.
 

3.      Requires that each end user accept the EULA prior to installation.

Ask.com does not:

1.      Utilize “Drive-By” downloads to distribute the Toolbar.
 

2.      Utilize deceptive or counter-intuitive processes to install the Toolbar.



Does the Toolbar collect any personal information?

No. The Toolbar does not collect personal information. The Toolbar does not solicit or collect a user’s name, address, birthdate, or email address, nor does it require a member name or password in order to operate. The Toolbar does not attempt to collect personal data upon startup, or at any time, as a requirement of use.

What is the “My Info” feature?

Certain versions of the Toolbar include an optional “My Info” button. This button allows users to access customized information (e.g., local sports scores, local movie listings, horoscope, customized news categories and providers) directly from their Toolbar. If users wish to access the My Info feature, they can do so by creating a username and password and supplying a zip code. No personally-identifiable information is required for this feature and this feature is not a requirement of installation. It is an optional feature that can be added or removed at any time and is intended solely as an enhancement to the user experience.

Does the Toolbar track where a user goes on the Web?

No. The Toolbar does not monitor the websites visited by the end user, or in any manner collect or report any information about the websites that an end user visits (or any related click-stream activity), nor does the Toolbar monitor or scrape information when users are on other websites.

What information does the My Web Search Toolbar transmit?

The Toolbar does have limited communication with Ask.com servers. First, it must communicate with a server in connection with the delivery and customization of search services. Second, the Toolbar communicates with My Web Search servers on an anonymous, non-personally identifiable basis to gauge usage by advertising source and initial download source. Such activities are described in greater detail below:

·         The Toolbar, in the course of processing a given search query, sends a request to the My Web Search servers. This request includes the keyword query, time of day, browser type, default language setting, IP address, an anonymous unique ID, and a code that identifies the distribution source of the Toolbar used to conduct a given search. If the search query is being generated as the result of a search term (rather than a URL address) being entered into a browser’s address bar or a misspelled URL, My Web Search also receives the misspelled URL address or search term. My Web Search  uses this information in order to properly process the search request. For example, this data provides My Web Search with: search results language preference; aggregated click information for the purpose of ensuring that algorithmic search providers are appropriately compensated; information that allows My Web Search  to understand the source of the download (e.g., whether it came from an advertisement for Smiley Central or Cursor Mania) and the advertiser that generated it; aggregated and anonymous usage and retention information; and aggregated and anonymous search query information for the purpose of further monetizing commercially oriented search keywords.
 

·         All information transmitted in the course of processing a search query is retained, if at all, on an anonymous basis. In addition, all information about search activity is observed on an aggregated basis only, and My Web Search does not disclose any non-aggregated information to third parties, except as might be required by a valid legal process such as a search warrant, subpoena, statute, or court order, or to protect someone's safety.
 

·         The Toolbar does send a small configuration request to My Web Search servers upon start-up of the user’s browser. This request is typically 1k in size and is made to confirm that the Toolbar is properly configured in accordance with a user’s settings and preferences, as well as to track, on an aggregated non-personally-identifiable basis, user retention and usage by advertising source (e.g., understanding how users are acquired through XYZ ad network and their retention rate over time).
 

·         The Toolbar does enable My Web Search to transmit updates to the software upon notice to the user. Like many major online software distributors – including Google, AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, Real, etc.  – My Web Search has designed updateable software in order to ensure that it can be kept current and in working order. Such updates will only occur upon prior notice to the user.

Does the My Web Search Toolbar use “cookies”?

Yes. First, the Toolbar uses cookies to store a code designating a distribution source. This information allows My Web Search to properly distinguish its Toolbars by download source and advertising source and to analyze product retention and usage on an aggregated, non-personalized basis. Second, the Toolbar uses cookies to store user preferences. For example, My Web Search uses a cookie to record, for the benefit of the user, which search engine a user has selected as his/her default provider. The Toolbar cookies do not track users’ use of the Internet in any other way or store any personally identifiable information. In addition, these cookies are not disclosed to third parties, except as may be required by a valid legal process such as a search warrant, subpoena, statute, or court order or to protect someone's safety.

Why do some spyware services mistake the product for "Spyware"?

There is a substantial amount of confusion and misinformation on the Web about how spyware detection software works and what “spyware” actually means. This lack of a single standard is compounded by the use of phrases like “adware,” “spyware,” “malware,” “dataminer” and the inclusion of programs on some spyware lists simply because the program is an add-on.

As referenced above, the My Way Search/My Web Search Toolbar is not spyware. My Web Search has engaged in a productive dialog with many providers of spyware detection software that have acknowledged, upon reviewing the product, that the Toolbar is not spyware and removed it or properly classified the software. If your particular spyware detection program is classifying the Toolbar software as “spyware”, please ensure that your detection program has been updated to include the most recent reference file.

Does the Toolbar “hijack” a user's home page?

No. The Toolbar does not “hijack” or over-write a user’s designated home page settings. However, certain versions of the Toolbar direct the user to a My Way (or My Web Search) search results page in the event that a user enters a search term (as opposed to a URL address) into the browser’s address bar or misspells a URL. In all such cases, notification of inclusion of this software is prominently displayed in the introductory paragraphs of the EULA and as one of the key product highlights on the Toolbar’s download page or of the Fun Web Products program with which it is being distributed. Depending upon the version of the Toolbar, this address bar search feature can be eliminated by either uninstalling the Toolbar or uninstalling a separate executable (which is clearly labeled in the user’s Add/Remove Programs function as “Search Assistant – My Way” or "Search Assistant - My Web Search").

Users who downloaded the Toolbar after March 2004 have the ability to disable this software without uninstalling the Toolbar.

Why does the My Web Search Toolbar create registry entries on my computer?

Registry entries are used by most software installed on a user’s computer. The Toolbar uses registry entries for two primary purposes. The first is to ensure that the Toolbar software functions properly in the Windows environment and in other software such as Internet Explorer. The second is to maintain and store user-designated preferences. As an example, registry entries are used to identify whether or not a user has selected to activate certain features (e.g., “Enable offline browsing” or “Color buttons always”). A registry key may also be used in order to store content a user has created using certain software such as a customized “smiley” in Smiley Central.

Some of these registry entries, which neither contain any programming or executable software code nor any personally identifiable information, may remain after a user has uninstalled the Toolbar. The sole reason for this is that the Toolbar would maintain the user's preferences should he/she wish to re-install the software. For users wishing to permanently delete the Toolbar registry entries, My Web Search publishes an uninstaller that can be accessed by clicking here.  Please note that registry entries containing a user's customized settings for PopSwatter, the Toolbar's pop-up blocker, may remain. The sole reason for this is that the customized settings are respected in the event that the user has PopSwatter installed in another toolbar.

 

This White Paper is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace, supplement or modify the End User License Agreements of Ask.com's properties, which shall govern.
© 2004 IAC Search & Media.