First, I would like to report that the fact that AIM+ returns information to the Big-O Software servers has never been hidden from the users. Moreover, it has been brought to the attention of the users BY the users, in the following thread from our forums. Big-O Software's original repsonse to this concern is also included in the thread.
I truly believe that any concerns users have about AIM+ sending information have been answered in this original thread. Any new concerns could have been brought up there, discussed, and dealt with, rather than having it come to this.
AIM+ as SpyWare Report Information
Users of AIM+ are unwittingly sharing information about themselves every time they connect to AOL. Aside from the spyware, AIM+ in my opinion is an excellent AOL instant messenger wrapper.
The fact that information being sent back to the Big-O Software servers was never hidden from the users, and has been available here in the forums for quite some time. Our original reponse to this issue can be read in the forum thread posted above.
I noticed some odd traffic which upon examination became immediately identifiable as belonging to AIM+. In version 2.1.1 build 59 (as well as the latest release 2.2 build 63 and probably earlier releases) an HTTP connection is made to www.big-o-software.com (18.104.22.168) referencing a PHP script which stores the following information:
- AOL instant messenger screen name
- AIM+ information:
- all your AIM+ settings
- AIM+ version
- AIM+ paths
- OS and version
- Computer network name
- CPU and RAM information
- Screen resolution
- Current UID (NT)
All of this information is in fact returned to our servers. It was implemented as a debugging tool, back when some AIM+ users were having trouble with the newly implemented cloning option. For more information on this debate, from the original thread, click here. Specifically, we wanted to know what percentage of AIM+ users were having this problem to the extent that they chose to disable cloning from the AIM+ Preferences menu.
As for the rest of the information returned, it is simply ignored and then deleted. You have been harmed in no way.
The cost of gathering these statistics has been enormous and most definitely not worthwhile. Although AIM+ is currently set up to send this information, the Big-O Software servers have been ignoring this data for quite some time now. As you may have noticed, our servers had been EXTREMELY lagged during most hours of the day lately. Because the servers are currently ignoring statistics data, this situation has improved, however, because of the number of regular hits the servers are still quite slow.
Please keep in mind that the only reason this information was ever sought out was to constantly improve AIM+ with new and better versions released, taylored not only to what WE want, but to also what YOU, the users want. The statistics were gathered with only this goal in mind.
I wrote the author about this issue on 5.6.2002
and have received no response to date.
Big-O Software receives hundreds of emails daily, to the extent that our two man team cannot possibly read and respond to them all in a timely fashion. The forums were set up as a better means for us to communicate with the users. If one person asks a question, everyone can view it, and our response, making it much more time effective than email. Some users have been participating in the forums for so long that they can answer many questions just as well as we can. We are currently working on answering as many emails as we can each day, and we would like to apologize to anyone still waiting for a response.
Finally, AIM+ is not alone in collecting usage statistics and information from its users. The majority of today's internet-enabled programs, including but not limited to instant messaging programs, music players, and operating systems, collect usage statistics for various reasons. Most simply want to know how many people are using their software, and how they are using it. If you are truly concerned about the gathering of statistics of this type, you should probably uninstall many of the programs you currently run, as they too return information to their creators.
As a final response to the concerns of AIM+ users, in the next version of AIM+, the statistic gathering code will be completely removed. The Upgrade Monitor may also be removed, as by its very nature it must have information gathered and returned to inform users of new releases. A future release of AIM+ may include an "Allow anonymous usage information" option so that users can decide for themselves whether or not to share some of the information about how they use AIM+, in order to aid future development. However, please bear in mind that Big-O Software releases free software at an already great cost to us. The additional cost of statistic gathering may not be feasable.
The statistics counter, like the AIM+ preferences, are stored in the system registry. If you want to stop sending usage information NOW, we have created a registry fix to do this for you automatically. You can download it here, then double click to install. No more information will be sent to the Big-O Software servers.
Statistics Registry Fix Contents
Feel free to reply in this thread, but please note that offensive, vulgar, inappropriate, etc. posts will be removed.