According to McSweeny, VisualDiscovery and its Superfish software “would alter the very Internet experience for which most consumers buy a computer,” she wrote. “I believe that if consumers were fully aware of what VisualDiscovery was, how it compromised their system, and how they could have opted out, most would have decided to keep VisualDiscovery inactive.”
VisualDiscovery used a pop-up window that introduced Superfish the first time that a user visited an e-commerce website, McSweeny wrote. Then Superfish broke the norms of conventional software: “But clicking to close that window opted consumers into the program,” McSweeny wrote (emphasis hers).
If that sounds familiar, it should. A year or so later, Microsoft was busy trying to encourage consumers to upgrade to Windows 10, through a series of increasingly annoying nagware screens. In May 2016, it went too far: A popup pushing Windows 10 would opt consumers into Windows 10 if they clicked the “X” at the top of the window to dismiss it. That behavior prompted complaints on Reddit and other sites, and neatly encapsulated Microsoft’s strong-arm tactics to force its user base onto Windows 10.
At the time, we all thought that was a new low. According to the FTC, Microsoft was simply copying VisualDiscovery.
Updated at 9:33 AM on Sept. 6 with a statement from Lenovo.
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