A fascinating new survey conducted by the fine folks at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, and released late last week, found that 91 percent of Internet users have changed their online habits to avoid spyware.

This is quite a triumph for malware makers… You can’t get 91 percent of average people to come in out of the rain, so pissing off 91 percent of the public so much that they seek to avoid you is a real accomplishment!

There were a lot of other noteworthy findings. For example, 81 percent of users avoid opening e-mail attachments without knowing for sure that they are safe; 48 percent stopped visiting Web sites they considered to be potential sources of spyware; 25 percent don’t use music-swapping networks anymore; and 18 percent have switched Internet browsers.

The Pew report also showed that about 68% of users (approximately 93 million) have had computer trouble in the past year consistent with problems caused by spyware and viruses, although 60% of those who had problems were not sure where the problem originated. Some 25% of Internet users have seen new programs on their computers that they did not install or new icons on their desktop that seemed to come out of nowhere. One in five Internet users (18%) reported that their homepage had been inexplicably changed.

While covering on the Pew survey, the St. Petersburg Times interviewed Claria’s Chief Privacy Officer Reed Freeman, asking him about the all-too-frequently obscure privacy disclosures that are the stock-in-trade of malware companies. To his great credit, my old friend Reed recognized that it’s up to the malware companies to be more transparent in their practices:

“Consumers shouldn’t have to go hunt for disclosure of that nature,” said Reed Freeman, chief privacy officer of Claria. “Adware companies that are interested in broad consumer acceptance ought to be putting their disclosures in the download process as they are getting the product so they can make an informed decision about what they’re getting.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at this quote, given that the subject of Claria’s crappy disclosures was a substantial bone of contention during my deposition in the dozen consolidated lawsuits against Claria. I’m so gratified to see that they’ve taken my criticisms to heart! :-D