Too often, we trust everything we see on a web page.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Deceptive download confuses readers

June 27, 2010

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, The Post-Standard

   I recommend software week after week. Usually, readers write to tell me how much they liked a particular recommendation. But a recent column recommending the free PC Decrapifier software elicited the opposite response from many of you.
   The problem? Those who complained had installed the wrong program.
   But how could this have happened? I included the proper website address for PC Decrapifier in the column, and all anyone had to do was go to that website and download the software. It's free and works well.
   So I donned my best imitation Sherlock Holmes hat and tried to find out what had happened.
   It didn't take long. The PC Decrapifier website, at www.pcdecrapifier.com, shows a small "Download" link at the left under the word "Menu." Clicking that link leads you to a downloadable copy of PC Decrapifier.
   But there's something else. At the right, a big button says "DOWNLOAD HERE." The button is deceptive. It's not the link for PC Decrapifier at all. It's a link for a come-on, a program that demands payment before it will fix any problems.
   Where I come from, we call that "dirty pool."
   Sure, a lawyer could argue that there was no deception. After all, a legend above the "DOWNLOAD HERE" button says "Advertisement."
   But the word "Advertisement" is so small most of us wouldn't be able to see it right away. So much for that argument.
   And a lawyer could even argue that the tiny word "reimage" just below the huge "DOWNLOAD HERE" button serves as an indication that the software being downloaded is actually not PC Decrapifier but another program called Reimage.
   Yeah. Right.
   Who do these people think we are?
   Unfortunately, the answer, for many of us, is "gullible."
   We believe in the Good, the Right, the Honest. We trust everything we see on a web page. When we're looking for a downloadable version of PC Decrapifier on the PC Decrapifier website, we expect that the words "DOWNLOAD HERE" mean just what they seem to mean. We don't expect them to mean something else.
   But the world doesn't work that way. Deception is common on the web.
   We have to be especially vigilant when reading links. Clicking on a deceptively labeled link can open the door to spyware, viruses and computer hijacking.
   And I have to be even more vigilant. As of this week, I will refuse to endorse, recommend or give favorable mention to any software that is presented in a deceptive manner. I don't care how good the software might be. If someone's trying to hoodwink you, I'm not going to play that game.
   After all, my reputation is at stake, too. I'm not going to let it be dragged down by this kind of deceit.