Our pal Walt Mossberg has a good article in today's Wall Street Journal that explains the Tracking Cookie issue, and gives us all one more good reason to avoid the Microsoft Operating System.
First his definition of Spyware:
Spyware--and a related category called Adware--is computer code placed on a user's computer without his or her permission and without notification, or with notification so obscure it hardly merits the term. Once installed, spyware and adware alter the PC's behavior to suit the interests of outside parties rather than those of the owner or user.
He says he can't recommend Microsoft because they have disabled the detection and removal of tracking cookies in their Operating System, thus giving in to the pleas from companies who place these cookies and believe that they are a legitimate business practice and aren't harmful.
All I can say about Tracking Cookies is, "Who's computer is it, anyway?" I run two spyware removal programs almost daily (Ad-Aware and Spybot) and immediately afterwards curse those companies who make me waste my time. I'll decide what is a legitimate business practice in my household, thank you very much.
I have come across a good program for defending PCs from spyware from my pals at Cisco called CSA (Cisco Security Agent). Though it is a high-end corporate product that entails spending more money than most home users would ever budget for. It does very effectively block spyware and protects corporate assets from the deleterious junk that is so easy to download and which screws up PCs and corporate networks no end. Keep it in mind if your company has problems with people who download music, visit Chat Rooms, or who use various Instant Messenger programs. The CSA product can be configured to stop all of these and many more programs.