Friday, March 31, 2023

Free windows software - read the fine print!

A ham radio friend who runs windows and is using various digital chat modes recommended some software that takes dictation and enters it in to a text field. He said "it's free".

I took a quick look at LilySpeech and noticed the little asterisk next to FREE*. When I drilled in to see what that was about I was amazed.

"The free version of LilySpeech is made possible by doing market research in the background. While there are many examples of what this might entail, the most common example would be a business looking to measure their visibility in search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo.

As a practical example, a national insurance company may wish to know where they come up in Google when you search for ‘auto insurance’ within the city of Seattle, or Chicago, or Dallas, etc.

As a LilySpeech user with a unique location and profile, you can provide insight to these companies that nobody else can.

These activities use a dedicated browser meaning no history from these activities will appear in your history or browsing activity. These activities are completely invisible meaning you will never be interrupted or inconvenienced.

Examples of the types of marketing activity that may occur include but are not limited to:

Checking and verifying websites positions in search engines for different search terms

  • Ad placement verification
  • Competition price checking
  • Website uptime monitoring

At no point will any market research be performed in the background that relates to the following industries:

  • Adult entertainment
  • Gambling
  • Pharmaceutical products
  • Any other gray/illegal market

At no point will any of these activities be malicious in intent or violate local, state, or federal law."

Wow. I've got to credit their honesty but they are basically turning your Windows computer into a bot to be used by third parties. This is new to me but perhaps it is done by other "free" software as well?


  1. I remember it being more of a thing in the past - many applications used to come with bundled browser toolbars, Bonzi Buddy, and other really shady bits of "helpful" software.

    The likes of and sourceforge were also quietly slipping 3rd party installers into downloads for a while too. Sourceforge's was called "DevShare" I think, the idea being that they'd share some of the generated revenue back to the developer. It's safe to say it didn't go down well with many people, and I think that mischief has long stopped.

  2. for running windows for any purpose I create virtual machines hosted on linux using either VirtualBox or VMware. Each vm is spun up for a specific purpose and spun down when not in use. I Never let windows run natively unless the box is strictly for games.
    Windows used for your banking and finance should be sacrosanct and used for precisely nothing else. A VM when spun down, cannot be hacked and cannot leak ! I wonder when microsft might consider allways operating under their VM hypervisor. Their hypervisor has been around a long time now, and I think its free if you look carefully.
    I know this is drawing a long-bow for ordinary folk.