Comet Systems / Comet Cursor
Server List: See Stephen Martin's Hosts File List (Comet Group)
Software List: The Spyware List by Lavasoft www.lavasoft.de has more info on Comet Cursor. Find it in their Freeware section.
About Comet Systems: www.cometcursor.com - www.cometsystems.com - www.cometzone.com - www.livecursors.com - www.mycometcursor.com
"Take advantage of Comet Systems' viral marketing channels and find a new way to drive traffic to your site!" The Comet Cursor by Comet Systems is software that changes your cursor when you visit "enhanced" web sites. Installing Comet Cursors gives "...Website publishers and marketers a new tool to use to brand and enhance their Websites and banner campaigns."
Caution: Users should check browser settings before visiting any Comet Site to prevent auto-installation of Comet Cursor. Directions are given below. All Comet Cursors (except the ones bundled with Real Player 7) include a GUID (Global Unique Identifier, aka Download Number).
Links & News
The Comet Cursor: www.tiac.net/users/smiths/privacy/comet.htm (Advanced Programming Website) Richard M. Smith "...describes an interesting tracking system built into the Comet Cursor browser plugin."
Applies to cometsystems, livecursors, cometzone, and mycometcursor.
States they are "...committed to protecting the privacy of our users" and that no identifying information is collected at any of their sites except for CometZone, where subscriber info is collected.
"There are two main versions of the Comet Cursor. One is the version of the Comet Cursor which is bundled with RealPlayer 7. This version is not issued a GUID.
"All other versions of the Comet Cursor contact our servers to record logs of cursor impressions using a GUID (Globally Unique IDentifier). When you download the Comet Cursor software, it is issued a GUID from our servers. Using this GUID, we can keep track of how many people are using our software. The GUID is also used every time the software contacts our servers when we log cursors changing."
"Second, our software checks in to see if a new version of the Comet Cursor software is available. If there is a bug fix or version upgrade available for the Comet Cursor, the software will retrieve the new code and replace the outdated code."
"Each time a user clicks on site content, (e.g. choosing a cursor image), that information is stored anonymously. Comet uses this aggregated usage information to determine which cursor content is most popular and to help us improve the content selection and performance of the site. In the case where content is licensed from other organizations (e.g. Snoopy and other Peanuts characters), Comet may provide aggregate usage statistics to the licensor. Again, all of this information is completely anonymous and aggregated."
Comet Cursor collects referrer IDs, IP addresses and system information (time of visit, type of browser used, operating system and cllickstream information. "We do not collect any non-anonymous information and we make no attempt to create user profiles. We do not attempt to connect anonymous information with any personally identifiable information, such as names or email addresses. [...] In cases which involve licensing content from other organizations (e.g. Snoopy and other Peanuts characters), Comet may provide aggregate usage statistics to the licensor"
"Our software contacts our servers to record logs of cursor impressions. By this we mean that we record whether you saw a cursor change, what page (URL) you saw the cursor change on, and what page (URL) you chose to view immediately after seeing the cursor change. [...]In addition, our software checks in with our servers periodically to see if enhancements for Comet Systems software are available. For example, if there is a bug fix or version upgrade for Comet Cursor 2.0, the software will retrieve the new code and replace the outdated code."
Privacy Contact: Sarah MacArthur firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (212) 231-2000.
Changing Comet Cursor Settings: www.cometcursor.com/settings.asp
Users who want to keep Comet Cursor can apply these patches to:
1. Disable Encryption: "Comet Systems encrypts data that is sent from your computer to our servers so that no unauthorized or malicious 3rd party can view it while it is in transit. You can enable, or disable, this encryption at any point..."
2. Replace GUIDs: "When you download Comet Cursor 2.0, our servers issue the software a Download Number. We use this number to keep an accurate count of how many people are using our software. While this number is guaranteed to be anonymous (we don't require email addresses or any other personal information when people download the Comet Cursor), you may feel more comfortable without a unique number associated with your copy of the Comet Cursor."
Browser Settings to Prevent Comet Cursor Auto-Installs
IE Only - Opt-Out Cookie: Available at download.cometsystems.com/no_nag/nonag.asp
"Choosing the "No more download offers" option will place a cookie on your machine. The cookie will "remember" that you should never receive solicitations to download the Comet Cursor 2.0 software." As cookies are so easily deleted, I don't recommend relying on this method. Users should correctly configure their browsers to prevent Comet auto-installs. Also, there is some confusion about the expiration date set in the cookie (60 days or 60 years?). I emailed Comet asking them for the expiration term but never received a reply.
To prevent Comet Cursor from automatically installing itself in IE when you visit an "enhanced" site, make sure "Installation of Desktop Items" is disabled (or at the least set to Prompt) in the Security settings for Internet and Restricted Zones.
Additionally, Comet Support gives the following directions for IE 5 (for IE 4, these settings can be found under "View | Internet Options" rather than "Tools | Internet Options"):
1. In IE, under Tools | Internet Options, select the Security tab. There will be a slider
which changes Security level for this zone. This should be set to Medium or higher. Low will
allow downloads without your permission.
2. In IE, under Tools | Internet Options, select the Security tab. There will be a Custom Level button. When you select it there will be a number of radio buttons to select. The top one (Download Signed Active X Controls) should be set to Prompt (not Enable).
3. In IE, under Tools | Internet Options, select the Security tab. There will be a green check that says Trusted Sites. Select that, and then the Sites button. In the Websites field you will be able to see all of the sites you have selected as "Trusted." The site from which you installed may be in this list.
Netscape users should always be prompted for permission to download and install Comet products. If Comet Cursor is being installed automatically, make sure "Require Manual Confirmation of Each Install" is checked under Edit | Preferences | Advanced | Smart Update.
If this doesn't stop the automatic installs, review your trusted applications and see if it has been somehow been given permission to install. Find these under Edit | Preferences | Navigator | Applications.
How to Uninstall Comet Cursor
1. Follow removal instructions from Comet Systems: www.cometsystems.com/what/cleaner.shtml. The Uninstaller provided by Comet isn't thorough so...
2. Followup with Lavasoft's free AD-aware utility is recommended (see Spyware Links).
Aug 10: Thanks to "Merv C" "The WebFairy" and "Bruce" for working out the comet.exe file and Netscape auto-install problems and solutions.
Current: Sept 02-00
Quoted excerpts are © Comet Systems unless otherwise noted.
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