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Adware as Paparazzi
Hollywood superstars have to deal with intrusive reporters and photographers following them around, documenting where they shop, what they wear, what they had for breakfast, etc.
Other times, they may take part in a prescheduled interview only to be blindsided by inappropriate questions or personal attacks.
Think of adware on your system in similar terms.
Adware is typically invited in to your computer under the guise of a useful program.
Buried in the legal notice that you agree to when you install it are stipulations that let the software track your habits.
Adware follows you around the Internet and logs the websites you visit, the purchases you make, the ads you click on, the services you use.
This information is sent to a third-party you can visualize as a newspaper publisher. This publisher determines what sells and what to toss away.
When your behavior matches with something the publisher is associated with, they publish ads to your system.
Ad-supported software sounds harmless enough. Just like folks taking pictures of celebrities in public sounds harmless.
The problem is that both activities can quickly become intrusive.
You wouldn't want a reporter following you in to the bathroom to see what brand of toilet paper you choose. You don't want adware to bombard you with ads related to sites you inadvertently visited or clicked on only once.
It gets worse. Reporters can doctor photos and make up things for articles they write.
Adware can be used by unscrupulous businesses to send inappropriate ads to your system. Getting pop-ups about the best brand of cheese is one thing, getting pop-ups advertising pornography or prescription drugs on the cheap are something else entirely.
The easiest way to avoid the Internet paparazzi is to deny them entrance in the first place. Slam the door in their face by not installing ad-supported software, by keeping your anti-virus software up-to-date, by running periodic scans for spyware on your system.
On the Internet, when money can be made, everyone is a celebrity. No one is immune.