RelevantKnowledge is software that exists in a moral grey area. RelevantKnowledge is widely considered spyware, because RelevantKnowledge will collect huge amounts of information about your Internet usage, and then use that information to put together even more information about you. That information is then sold, anonymously, either individually or as part of aggregate data. Given the way that RelevantKnowledge is installed on most computers, it is unlikely that most of those users are fully aware of the facts about RelevantKnowledge.
What RelevantKnowledge is, and Where it Comes From
RelevantKnowledge is a product of the company MarketScore, formerly called Netsetter. MarketScore developed and uses RelevantKnowledge in order to gather data about Internet usage, and sell that data, for the purposes of Internet development, commerce, and development, as well as for the purposes of economic analysis, predictions, and investing. MarketScore has a history of offering a per-user sign-up bounty to websites that run advertisements for RelevantKnowledge.
In order to entice users to install RelevantKnowledge, MarketScore has always offered some kind of incentive. Initially, they offered an Internet “Accelerator,” which was supposedly capable of improving Internet connection speed. After security holes had been revealed in this "Accelerator," which allowed malware to download to the computer it was installed on, and after studies had showed that the software did not improve Internet speeds, MarketScore stopped offering that as an incentive. For a while, they moved to a partnership with Symantec to offer free anti-virus software, but Symantec terminated that relationship when it was revealed that RelevantKnowledge was being intentionally installed through browser security holes onto people's PC's without their knowledge or consent. MarketScore now "offers" freeware as an incentive, although the much more common scenario is for RelevantKnowledge to be bundled along with a software download that has given no outward indication of being associated with MarketScore. Consequently, many people who find RelevantKnowledge on their computers do not know why it is there
The Information that RelevantKnowledge Collects
RelevantKnowledge collects a huge amount of information on the user or users of the computer on which it is installed. It literally monitors all Internet traffic, of all kinds, including traffic to secure sites where the user maintains or enters private or sensitive personal information. MarketScore only guarantees that they will use "commercially viable efforts" to protect the sensitive information that they collect, which basically translates to, "whatever we feel like doing". Furthermore, in its End User License Agreement for RelevantKnowledge – which may not even be provided to everyone who has RelevantKnowledge installed on their PC – MarketScore explicitly states that they will work to create a comprehensive profile of you, linking up your prescription records and credit history to your online activity. The activity that MarketScore monitors is not just which websites are visited, but how often sites are visited, how many clicks are entered and which things are clicked on, what you type into the sites, and even the headers of the emails that you send and receive. RelevantKnowledge collects this information in order to sell it, and MarketScore will sell it. Your information may be sold as an individual, comprehensive anonymous profile to an interested company; or your information may be part of an aggregate. MarketScore does not limit its business to aggregate data.
In addition to the extreme level of Internet monitoring that RelevantKnowledge engages in, it will sometimes cause pop-up surveys and advertisement to appear on the affected computer. MarketScore says in the RelevantKnowledge EULA that these surveys are optional extras for users who want to help out and provide more information, and there may or may not be sweepstakes involved. If advertisements appear at the PC because of RelevantKnowledge, they are targeted based on the user's Internet history and usage.
Current Distribution of RelevantKnowledge
Because RelevantKnowledge is distributed almost exclusively through freeware downloads of other software, and only really mentioned in the middle of the installation process, there may be a disincentive for the user to read the EULA. For example, suppose you're trying to install MKV Player to listen to some audio files. You download the software, which is only described as an audio player, and halfway through the installation process you get a screen asking if you agree to install RelevantKnowledge. If you are only installing the software to begin with because you really want the audio player, the RelevantKnowledge screen is a step that you're likely to click past without paying much attention to it. Also, if that screen comes with a huge long End User License Agreement, how likely is the average person to take the fifteen minutes to read that giant chunk of legalistic text? If you're installing software voluntarily, and it is software that you want or need to use, you might just have a good disincentive to spend the time reading that agreement. Then, the scope of what RelevantKnowledge monitors and stores is immense – all because of a little screen in the middle of a setup wizard for something else.
RelevantKnowledge can be uninstalled through the Control Panel; however, RelevantKnowledge has commonly been reported to be a rather messy uninstall. In other words, RelevantKnowledge leaves things behind and may not uninstall everything that RelevantKnowledge set up. Because of this, along with the intrusive nature of what RelevantKnowledge collects and RelevantKnowledge's dubious history of incentives and installation methods, RelevantKnowledge has a reputation as spyware regardless of RelevantKnowledge's above-board, explicit, public existence.
It may be necessary to use security software to remove RelevantKnowledge completely. In general, it is a good idea to be very cautious about the software that comes bundled along with freeware, in order to make sure you fully understand what you are installing. If you are not okay with what RelevantKnowledge does, take care to steer clear of it.
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This article is provided "as is" and to be used for educational information purposes only. By following any instructions on this article, you agree to be bound by the disclaimer. We make no guarantees that this article will help you completely remove the malware threats on your computer. Spyware changes regularly; therefore, it is difficult to fully clean an infected machine through manual means.