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Want to know how McAfee "SiteAdvisor" makes money on you? See if you are one of the targets!
The company "Smart PC Solutions", a developer of easy to use solutions for the optimization of your PC, has become the victim of a negative rating on Mcafee's "SiteAdvisor" just like many other sites, most having no idea that they have received a negative review or why. This causes direct financial losses for many companies but in actuality it redistributes money in favor of McAfee, which sells its anti-virus solutions to terrified users who do not delve very deeply into the details and believe the unjustified ratings.
This is an obvious case of unfair competition via their security software sales promotion by destroying other companies' goodwill.
McAfee's "SiteAdvisor" assigns a color to each site to indicate safe, caution, or warning ratings sometimes based only on average users' comments (besides other things). A big red cross (warning) definitely states the presence of a virus and/or spyware activity on the rated site. Their motto reads as follows: "Protection from Adware, Spam and Viruses". Here comes the surprise: the company "Smart PC Solutions" has nothing to do with spreading viruses yet it has received a rating of a Big Red Cross - beware of the virus threat! Most of the software provided on "Smart PC Solutions" is freeware utilities and sometimes users fail to achieve the desired results as two customers' comments have testified. The majority of the user feedback on "Smart PC Solutions" has been positive and appreciative. Do you know where McAfee placed the comments on the performance of the "Free Data Recovery" utilities? They put them in the "Bad Shopping Experience" section. Amazing! Do you see any logic here? "Smart PC Solutions" supplies Free Data Recovery software (worth over .00) for FREE (as well as many other useful things)! The first question to McAfee is: "What does shopping have to do with the Free Data Recovery products?" Let's go further and raise the second question to McAfee: "What does a shopping experience have to do with the virus warning rating?" Where did they find products containing viruses or spyware on the http://www.smartpctools.com site? McAfee misleads or intentionally deceives people, by intimidating them with erroneous negative ratings that could present a case for litigation. Now a question to the readers: "Do you still trust this system of evaluation?" There is an interesting fact that the Siteadvisor.com site itself has a significant number of negative evaluations by users but the site is not marked with even a "Caution"! Draw your own conclusions!
As the owner of "Smart PC Solutions", I wrote a letter to McAfee's legal department requesting a removal of the negative rating, but was astonished by a reply from an official representative of McAfee stating that they put us in the same basket with spyware producers because some public association has rated our FREE anti-spyware solution as "not strong enough" and that it contains advertising of our other products. Information about that was found in one user comment. So what? We have created our own anti-spyware solution for our customers to remove widespread unwanted components. We do not pretend to be the leader in this field. This was not our aim. Here is the third question to McAfee: Since when has market evaluation been entrusted to random researchers and public associations in such an important matter as issuing guilty or not-guilty verdicts! There is not a word about this on McAfee's site! Recently, several "independent evaluators" have emerged mooching on the anti-spyware market, and it is a well-known fact that they often are consultants for anti-spyware companies so their opinions could potentially be biased towards one developer or another.
I wonder if many of your users understand that by trusting McAfee, they trust various paranoid evaluators, whose true interests are dubious. When making a deal with McAfee you, as their customers, did not intend to deal with a club of amateurs and individual exterminators. When buying a car, you do not enter into a contract with a club of energy-saving engine fans or a club of some brand-name fans, and you do not allow them to dictate conditions!
There are millions of sites on the Internet now, thousands are emerging and disappearing every day. As an IT expert and company owner, I am curious as to how SiteAdvisor is able to rate them and update their database in real time since it is an enormous amount of information. They found a simple solution - they rely on users' comments posted on SiteAdvisor. Users already observe a slow-down in their PC's operation when the system is installed! As a matter of fact, McAfee bought SiteAdvisor as early as April 2006, and my guess is that the workload will keep increasing. The problem is partially solved by users, who produce ratings and who McAfee relies on. This is too simple and unreliable a solution for such a responsible matter! The fact is that the company labels one site or another as potentially hazardous for it's own reasons, not on the recommendation of users-evaluators. This is the ultimate truth of the project, which in fact smells like slender. As far as site development is concerned, I have the following perspective: We have an obvious case of redistribution in the anti-spyware solutions market. Where the market disposition does not exist, it is being created. There has been a significant rise in the number of passionate users' rights activists with a maniac attitude. Their real motivation is very questionable. The problem is largely forged to pump up anti-spyware hysteria, to frighten users and then sell them a "solution" to the problem. This is unfair moneymaking. McAfee earns as much as you lose from users avoiding your site being scared away by fake ratings designed simply to sell them a security solution. If you are not a site owner, you will buy their security solution when you see the fake warning ratings. In both cases regular customers bring their money to the anti-virus company.
Microsoft, possessing much more powerful resources, does not attempt to evaluate all sites. It simply created an inexpensive and effective solution, Windows Live OneCare, as the market leader ought to. In view of unprecedented success of this solution, McAfee was left with nothing to do but to take up emergency measures to secure its market share. This is a clumsy attempt to retain the vanishing market. With such an approach they will first lose the credibility of software developers like "Smart PC Solutions" and then the users, who will see their fake ratings and notice how benign sites get negative reviews unfairly.
One can get a negative rating on SiteAdvisor just for a link to a site that is considered hazardous by them. It would be good if there was a uniform policy for everyone, but unfortunately this is not the case, and the policy is indeed selective. SiteAdvisor does not analyze the context of a given linked site. It is simply impossible to do for the entire Web. The selective policy of Site Advisor is clearly represented by the positive ranking given to a huge social network called MySpace. This social network has over a million user accounts, and there have been cases when spyware developers spread infected video files on the pages of MySpace users. Right in the comments of this site, there is a link to a report by the famous anti-virus company, Sunbelt, about finding infected video files in the MySpace system. Here is a paradox: SiteAdvisor does not take the information of a reputed company into a consideration. In the case of "Smart PC Solutions", the opinion of a "random observer" is taken into a consideration! A lot of negative responses about the system are given in the comments on the site. The same selective policy is observed with the well-known American software registration service Plimus.com, defamed by SiteAdvisor and marked as hazardous as a result of links to sites not related to the company. There is no single negative user's comment! All comments read that Plimus is safe for online purchasing!
In my opinion, SiteAdvisor pursues a selective policy because it fears potential legal actions by big and reputed companies knowing the full truth about its system of rating. I think lawsuits will follow soon.
It is clear that McAfee has just recently acquired SiteAdvisor, and that there is a need to scare the public, but they have done it at the expense of many small site owners. I think there will be an upsurge of anger from business owners who suffer losses from unfair ratings.
Make an experiment of your own - test your favorite information sites, movie and music stars' sites and share this article with your friends. Let us know if you do or do not agree with the SiteAdvisor ratings. Share your opinions and stories with us. Speak out now, and your comments and stories will be published on the http://www.smartpctools.com/truth web page.
Users' new articles and voting results will be regularly published here. Visit our site if you want to see the real picture and express your own opinion!
About the Author: Alexander Rodichev is a founder of Smart PC Solutions company located in Alexandria, VA. The company develops easy to use solutions for daily care to keep users PC in a good shape.