HP VP: We Did Not Secretly Install Spyware On PCs

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A top executive for HP Inc. has denied media reports that a software update on some PCs secretly installed a "spyware" program that transmits usage data to HP without permission.

Mike Nash, HP's vice president of customer experience for personal systems, said Wednesday that the software, HP Touchpoint Analytics, has actually been around for several years -- and that users must opt in to enable any sharing of usage data with HP.

"There are some very specific definitions of spyware, and what spyware does, and this is not that," Nash said in an interview with CRN.

[Related: HP CEO Weisler: 'Strong Innovation,' Partner Wins Drive Third Straight Quarter For Both PC And Printing Sales Growth]

The media reports had alleged HP was installing spyware on some PCs. Users, including some who posted on HP's support message board, complained that HP Touchpoint Analytics had been installed without their permission.

HP Touchpoint Analytics is part of the HP Support Assistant, a troubleshooting application that's built into both consumer and commercial PCs from HP.

HP Touchpoint Analytics was first introduced in 2014 and did get updated recently, according to HP. "We update it, like anything else, to improve what it can do and the performance. But it's not a new thing," Nash said.

HP Touchpoint Analytics collects diagnostic data on hardware and software usage, and HP does have an interest in receiving the data to help with improving the user experience on PCs, Nash said.

However, during setup for the HP Support Assistant, users are specifically asked for permission before any data is shared, he said. It's not a matter of users agreeing to the fine print, either, Nash said. During the interview with CRN, he read aloud the language that HP uses for the question: "Help improve HP product quality by sharing your usage of HP and non-HP software and hardware."

"You have to click 'yes' or 'no,'" Nash said. "If you click nothing, we take that as a 'No.'"

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