Oracle Being Sneaky Towards Non-Savvy Users

19 July 2013

With all the security vulnerabilities in Oracle's Java application over the past year, they have been more active in patching them. Windows users who have Java are getting notifications quite regularly now to update their version of Java.

This is a good thing and they even direct you to a page of theirs which asks permission to check you computer for older versions of Java and will remove it for you, thus providing you better security.

What the problem is here, in regards to Java updates, is that Oracle is wrapping the update with the Ask Toolbar as an opt-out installation rather than an opt-in installation of the toolbar. What that means is, the user needs to manually uncheck the box to install the Ask Toolbar during the Java update process. Oracle has it checked for you by default which means its opt-out.

Not only that, it appears that they are defaulting the option to change a users homepage and search engine in their web browser to Ask. But what's more sneaky is that it says "Set and keep" which implies that it will set your browser to the Ask search engine and not allow or prevent you from changing it back to what you had.

To the non-savvy user feeling like they're doing good by installing the update, which they are, most of them tend to not pay close attention to what they're clicking 'next' on or 'I agree" to and quickly press 'next,' 'next,' and 'finish' to get the job done. What they didn't realize is they also agreed to install software they didn't intend to install. This is where I use the term that I picked up somewhere along the way,

Don't Install Software You Didn't Go Looking For.

Oracle (and Ask) is counting on that fact that many people don't pay close enough attention to those dialog boxes and install that opt-out software. No doubt Oracle is getting paid a handsome sum from Ask and other third-party apps they partner with at times.

Due to Oracle and other companies who do similar things the non-savvy computer users end up with web browsers that have more toolbars and add-ons clogging up their screen than they do usable screen to look at an actual website.

I ran into this just a few weeks ago helping a friend of a friend install a new wireless router and when I saw their browser I was shocked at the multitude of add-ons she had.

People need to be aware and slow down when clicking 'next' when installing software so as not to install a third-party app they didn't intend to install.

Its too bad that Oracle and other companies do this because they clearly do not have the end-user in mind when "helping" them keep their app updated.

What oracle needs to do is make their wrapper apps opt-in. Where the Ask Toolbar can still be an optional install but not checked by default. Let the user see it and decide if they want it. If they do, they can then click on it and install it that way.

Download the pdf version with pictures here.