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Tax Program Develops An Insulting Approach - TurboTax installs Spyware
The Wall Street Journal ^ | Thursday, January 30, 2003 | WALTER S. MOSSBERG

Posted on 01/30/2003 8:12:59 AM PST by TroutStalker

Edited on 04/22/2004 11:48:02 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]

The top two software packages for tax preparation have been largely static in their core features and user interfaces for years, but you'll notice a new attitude toward customers from one of the publishers this time around.

The programs are nearly identical, and in my annual reviews of H&R Block's TaxCut and TurboTax by Intuit I have mainly noted changes in ancillary features, and in the proliferation of various editions and versions that seem inspired more by marketing than by functionality.


(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...


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To: Sir Gawain
I've read where C-Dilla actually disables your CD burner on occassion when its copy protection routine kicks in and thinks you're burning pirated software--not just TurboTax.

Macrovision Offers Closer Look At SafeCast/C-Dilla
"One of the criticisms of the SafeCast/C-Dilla software is that it somehow disables CD burners, preventing CDs protected with the SafeCast software to be copied. This claim is false, Glass said. Burning the protected CD doesn't work because the software sends certain commands which can only be interpreted by "master" CD burners at mass duplication factories, he said.
Does anyone know exactly what that means? I sure don't. And I don't want any spyware to send any supposedly harmless commands to my burner ever. My burner should only receive commands from software that I have installed for burning.

I don't think anyone has yet provided a thorough answer to whether and to what extent CD-burning may be affected but C-Dilla's SafeDisc technology certainly makes this easy to include. I certainly wouldn't rule it out. There's a lot of strange behavior and denials from Intuit and Macrovision/C-Dilla on this matter.

Not only does this stuff take up disk space and spread files all over your system and spy on you, it occupies RAM and causes more disk-thrashing for virtual memory. Why should anyone accept it?

Bottom line: Dump TurboTax and send corporate America a no-I-won't-accept-spyware message. When TurboTax suffers a rapid loss of market share, they'll get the message.
51 posted on 01/30/2003 9:42:36 AM PST by George W. Bush
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To: newgeezer
My guess is most or all rebates are offered with the premise ...

Exactly.

If you're in college, quit. You've already got the equivalent of a Masters in marketing.

52 posted on 01/30/2003 9:44:55 AM PST by LTCJ
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To: Poohbah
You willing to play Horatio at the gate to keep some pimply-faced teenage slacker out of prison? You willing to become Spike and Bubba's cell-b!tch for that?

Well, at least you're no longer telling me to murder my children and commit suicide.

You know, you're not exactly an attractive poster child for DRM and copyright enforcement. And FR, due to the nature of posting copyrighted works, isn't exactly the place to prosecute your case. Why do you hang out here anyway, given your puritanical copyright notions?
53 posted on 01/30/2003 9:50:11 AM PST by George W. Bush
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To: George W. Bush
You know, you're not exactly an attractive poster child for DRM and copyright enforcement.

You know, I don't shive a git.

And you surely are not an attractive poster child for the "information wants to be free, give me free software and entertainment for life" crowd. You're even less appealing and intelligent than the average, and that takes some doing.

I mean, seriously, I never knew that someone with a flatline EEG could post to the Web before I bumped into you.

54 posted on 01/30/2003 9:55:30 AM PST by Poohbah (Beware the fury of a patient man -- John Dryden)
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To: George W. Bush
GWB,

Like I stated earlier there is a patch file that patches the activation code right out of TTax 2003. After I ran it on my TTax mailer copy (like the AOL discs) I was able to download my "free" state software.

Ad-aware then nuked C-Dilla. After that TTax still functioned fine. I am sure you could use it to finish your taxes. The only question at this point is could you still file online (ie. will they still take your $12-$20 bucks to file online) I don't know, but I suspect they will. I'll be the first guinea pig and let you guys know.
55 posted on 01/30/2003 9:59:44 AM PST by Smogger
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To: Sir Gawain
Pretty amazing. All this sneaky $hit really burns me. I'm glad I switched from Quicken too. Intuit can go to hell.
56 posted on 01/30/2003 9:59:51 AM PST by TroutStalker
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To: TroutStalker
How thoroughly depressing; a once respectable company turns into a scumware propagator. They'll lose most of their business for this.
57 posted on 01/30/2003 10:02:32 AM PST by jpl
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To: Smogger
Ad-aware then nuked C-Dilla. After that TTax still functioned fine.

Perhaps Ad-aware only nuked the portions of C-Dilla that it considered to be spyware. Macrovision's statement and the articles indicate that there are a whole bunch of files that get scattered around and that, for the license to fail, all of the files have to be destroyed.

But if you completely uninstalled the SmartCast normally, it will kill your TurboTax.

When you dial in to do online filing, Intuit will know that your license is no longer intact. And they'll record that information. Personally identifiable and with social security number attached.

I think you should switch but you seem to know the issues well enough to judge for yourself.
58 posted on 01/30/2003 11:22:02 AM PST by George W. Bush
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To: Poohbah
"Let the pirates wonder why the IRS is hitting them for an audit, back taxes, and penalties..."

Any software has all kinds of glitches and errors. You think it is a good idea to have the software give incorrect info when it is operating functionally. What happens when the software causes hundreds(?) thousands(?) of audits for people who didn't pirate the software, but the anti-piracy safeguards mistakenly indicates the user has a pirated copy?

How long do you think they would stay in business after lawsuits?

Anti-piracy software is bad enough when it prevents legitimate use. adding in deliberate sabotage may be the future but it is not wise and it will not lead to success.
59 posted on 01/30/2003 11:22:32 AM PST by Once-Ler (I vote Dubya)
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To: Poohbah
I mean, seriously, I never knew that someone with a flatline EEG could post to the Web before I bumped into you.

Why don't you and Bush2000 go browse other threads here at FR where the content was lifted from syndicated and copyrighted sources?

If you check the source of our article, you'll find that it is copyrighted by the Wall Street Journal. It is not syndicated for reproduction anywhere else that I can see.

Your enthusiasm for copyright enforcement is so selective that no one takes your position seriously. To be convincing, you need to resign from FR.

You're FR's Clown Prince Of Irony.
60 posted on 01/30/2003 11:27:34 AM PST by George W. Bush
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To: johnandrhonda
Turbo Tax and Quicken have been doing this for years. Software owners pay way too much if they avail themselves of the direct mailers sent to them by both. I buy my new copies in either Sam's Club or Costco.
61 posted on 01/30/2003 11:39:54 AM PST by CdMGuy
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To: George W. Bush
When you dial in to do online filing, Intuit will know that your license is no longer intact. And they'll record that information. Personally identifiable and with social security number attached.

Perhaps, but I suspect that the contract that they enter into with you when the accept your money to perform the electronic filing, and forward your taxes to the IRS supercedes whatever suspicions of piracy they may have. In addition I would guess whatever agreement they have with the IRS prevents precludes them from "sabotaging" your taxes, as some here have suggested, and doing pretty much anything but forwarding them to the IRS.

I don't really see how the activation code scenario that they have gone to differs from the "registration code" scenario they used in the past. No one who filed their taxes using a duplicate "registration code" was prevented from filing electronically last year. So, presumably, Intuit processed millions of electronic filings where the registration code was identical for ALL of the customers.

Futhermore, the four electronic filings per copy was enforced by the software not the servers. So it was really more like 4 electroni filings per install. We'll see if this changes.

62 posted on 01/30/2003 11:47:06 AM PST by Smogger
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To: George W. Bush
Poohbah is a "legal" type, who also appears to be a supporter of prison rape.

Copyright violations are illegal, but torture under the colour of authority is not. Such sentiments would warm the cockles of the heart of Bill Lockyer, liberty-hater extraordinaire.

63 posted on 01/30/2003 12:26:21 PM PST by an amused spectator
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To: Once-Ler
I believe that your concern also comes under the heading of my post #63, torture under colour of authority.

The Poohbs is an enthusiastic supporter of such practices. ;-)

64 posted on 01/30/2003 12:28:48 PM PST by an amused spectator
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To: an amused spectator
Poohbah is a "legal" type, who also appears to be a supporter of prison rape.

Yes, I've seen the type around here before.

There are many ignorant people in this country who apparently consider the routine incidence of rape in prison by other inmates to be a positive feature of American justice.

They reap what they sow when these people finally get out of prison. I can't fathom their thinking process. Or detect it. Or stomach it for that matter.
65 posted on 01/30/2003 12:31:32 PM PST by George W. Bush
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To: TroutStalker
I sent the following email to the executives listed on Intuit's web site:

-----Original Message-----
From: Wiener, Daniel
Sent: Thursday, January 30, 2003 1:37 PM
To: Steve_Bennett@intuit.com; Scott_Cook@intuit.com; Bill_Campbell@intuit.com
Cc: Dennis_Adsit@intuit.com Sonita_Ahmed@intuit.com; Tom_Allanson@intuit.com; David_Belle-Isle@intuit.com; Mark_Bercow@intuit.com; Steve_Blundell@intuit.com; Craig_Carlson@intuit.com; Elliot_Cooperstone@intuit.com; Caroline_Donahue@intuit.com; Linda_Fellows@intuit.com; Brooks_Fisher@intuit.com; Jim_Grenier@intuit.com; Jennifer_Hall@intuit.com; Brad_Henske@intuit.com; Bill_Hensler@intuit.com; Kozo_Hiramatsu@intuit.com; Russ_Hobbs@intuit.com; Bill_Ihrie@intuit.com; Bruce_Johnson@intuit.com; Larry_King@intuit.com; Lisa_Lang@intuit.com; Jeff_Langston@intuit.com; Bob_Lasser@intuit.com; Bob_Lawson@intuit.com; Ginny_Lee@intuit.com; Dan_Levin@intuit.com; Miles_Lewitt@intuit.com; Dan_Manack@intuit.com; Bernie_McKay@intuit.com; Bob_Meighan@intuit.com; Bill_Mirbach@intuit.com; Ken_Mudge@intuit.com; Lorrie_Norrington@intuit.com; Carol_Novello@intuit.com; Michael_Potts@intuit.com; Enrico_Roderick@intuit.com; Pankaj_Shukla@intuit.com; Melanie_Singer@intuit.com; Fran_Smallson@intuit.com; Tom_Spencer@intuit.com; Raymond_Stern@intuit.com; Jill_Ward@intuit.com; Donna_Wells@intuit.com; Sherry_Whiteley@intuit.com; David_Windley@intuit.com
Subject: Insulting software

I just finished reading Walter Mossberg's column in today's Wall Street Journal. I am appalled.

For many years now I've been a loyal Intuit customer, as a quick check of your computer records will reveal. I've regularly purchased the federal and state Turbo Tax packages for individuals, as well as the Corporate Business packages. They all worked very well at very reasonable prices, and I had no reason to even look at your competitors. I was just about to again purchase your products to prepare our 2002 returns.

Now you've lost me, just as I'm sure you have lost many, many others. I shall instead buy from one of your competitors who demonstrates more respect for its customers.

I shall not use Turbo Tax again.

Sincerely yours,

Daniel Wiener

66 posted on 01/30/2003 1:53:43 PM PST by dpwiener
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To: dpwiener
Nice work, Daniel! A real one-man FReeping.
67 posted on 01/30/2003 3:54:30 PM PST by George W. Bush
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To: TroutStalker
I had already purchased TurboTax, but at least you can now uninstall SafeCast. As a loyal customer Intuit, thanks a lot!

Yes you can uninstall SafeCast, but then your TurboTax will no longer operate. Suggestion: Don't uninstall it until you've finished your return and any future audits that the IRS may request.

68 posted on 01/30/2003 4:01:36 PM PST by jackbill
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To: Sir Gawain
I meant in general. WSJ is writing about a story that has been known for at least a month already in the software forums.

I suspect that there are more readers of the WSJ than all of the "software forums" combined - and then some.

You can bet your bippy that the WSJ article is either the death of Intuit, or a significant change in 2003.

By the way, Intuit's Quicken and QuickBooks has similar problems.

69 posted on 01/30/2003 4:05:22 PM PST by jackbill
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To: George W. Bush
Nice work, Daniel! A real one-man FReeping.

Thank you. I have so far gotten back very polite replies from Bob Meighan (Vice President, Tax Development, Consumer Tax Group), Brooks Fisher (Vice President, Vertical Strategy and Integration), and Steve Bennett (President and CEO). Bob Meighan's response was particularly detailed and extensive.

I'm not going to publically post our email exchanges, since I had not indicated to them ahead of time that I might do so.

If people disagree with Intuit's actions, it is important that they communicate that fact (and their reasons) to Intuit. After all, how can we hope or expect a company to correct a mistake unless it receives adequate feedback? Even if the sales of Turbo Tax suffer this year, it does no good unless Intuit understands why the dropoff occurred.

Intuit has valid reasons for wanting to suppress piracy. We need to motivate Intuit to find a different way. Free market competition can be an extremely powerful motivator.

70 posted on 01/30/2003 5:22:14 PM PST by dpwiener
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To: dpwiener
Last year I used Tax Cut 2001 Deluxe and it worked great. But I'm cheap. Has anyone tried the free download Tax Act 2002 ?
71 posted on 01/30/2003 5:34:28 PM PST by plymaniac
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To: TroutStalker
Well well well....

I'm sitting here with a sealed box of turbotax that I think I'll return to the store. I guess I'll be doing taxes by hand this year. Lets see, enter the amount from box 1a on line.....

72 posted on 01/30/2003 5:36:51 PM PST by meyer
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To: jpl
How thoroughly depressing; a once respectable company turns into a scumware propagator. They'll lose most of their business for this.

I have used quicken for years. After buying a new computer with XP, the old version of Quicken didn't seem to want to work properly (it was OLD) so I opted to buy the 2003 version. Man was I disappointed. First, the layout of the screen is disappointing. Second, the program can't seem to put things in the proper order. When I reconcile, I have to search for entries where they were in chronological order before. This version groups things in an illogical manner and I don't like that.

But by far the worst problem with Quicken 2003 is that it is constantly trying to get me to use the internet. It is 75% bloated adware, and 25% function. I've gotten it to calm down, but it still has plenty of places where I don't dare place my mouse. Why in the world would I want to put my own sensitive financial data, however insignificant it may be, on the internet. At least at home, it is relatively secure behind hardware and software firewalls.

It looks like MS Money is my next move, unless that tries to act like Quicken as well. Too bad that the old 16-bit version wouldn't run on XP.

73 posted on 01/30/2003 5:45:58 PM PST by meyer
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To: Sir Gawain
This is old news.

The article he posts was published today. And I believe Intuit's C-Dilla removal program is very recent.

74 posted on 01/30/2003 5:54:24 PM PST by Petronski (I'm not always cranky.)
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To: Sir Gawain
You may opt-out of these disclosures by following the procedures set forth below under the heading "How You Can Control the Use or Disclosure of Your Information", or by designating your preferences during the registration process.

Federal Privacy law requires they give an opt-out procedure.

75 posted on 01/30/2003 5:58:11 PM PST by Petronski (I'm not always cranky.)
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To: dpwiener
Dan, I used your mailing list for my own missive:

I've been using TurboTax for seven years (check your records for [name redacted]) but this year you can forget it. I will not load up my computer with your spyware C-dilla software. I have read press accounts of your assurances that it's harmless and it only watches out for your copyright concerns, but frankly, what you have done is attempted to fill my computer with YOUR files designed to spy on ME, presumably because you think I'm going to steal your software or sell it to someone else.

I read about this in the Wall Street Journal this morning, but I already knew about it from internet forums (where I met dozens or scores of other people dropping your software like a pox-infected blanket). I don't care if doesn't harm me as long as I don't copy your software, that is totalitarian thinking. And I don't care if it can be removed after I am done with the program, because given the sneaky way you have gone about this, I frankly can't trust you anymore.

I shall not purchase Intuit software anymore (I am also a Quicken user), and I will do my best to spread the word about this underhanded spyware tactic.

You cannot insult your customer and expect his return business. Please remove me from your mailing list, though your e-mail reply to this letter is anticipated.

[real name and address in original]
76 posted on 01/30/2003 6:17:26 PM PST by Petronski (I'm not always cranky.)
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To: dpwiener; Petronski
I have to congratulate you both. It's so much more effective to confront them directly than to just discard their product and get something else. It really presses the point home with them in a way they won't forget.

I suspect they already know they're in serious trouble with this. A lot of message boards and articles show people bristling over the practice. I think it's because it is their tax/financial software that makes it such a hot issue. Perhaps people wouldn't be reacting quite so strongly otherwise.

I have to wonder if they can demonstrate known piracy from last year to justify this C-Dilla thing this year. If so, then do they still feel that way after the market's reaction and the WSJ article.

I suspect they may be having some second thoughts. Just a hunch.
77 posted on 01/30/2003 6:29:20 PM PST by George W. Bush
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To: jackbill
By the way, Intuit's Quicken and QuickBooks has similar problems.

QuickBooks 2002 Premiere doesn't have C-Dilla that I can find. I'm going to check a copy of QuickBooks 2003 Pro that I have access to. I don't know about Quicken but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if you're right since that would be the logical target of large-scale piracy.
78 posted on 01/30/2003 6:32:20 PM PST by George W. Bush
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To: TroutStalker
This "SafeCast" applet has been a PR disaster for Intuit. Whoever dreamed this up at Intuit sure lost Intuit a lot of money. I wonder if he still has a job.
79 posted on 01/30/2003 6:33:57 PM PST by SamAdams76 ('Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens')
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To: George W. Bush
I would encourage everyone on this thread who is dropping TurboTax to drop them a line. It doesn't have to be a logorrheal essay like mine, just a line or two. This is not a political Freep, but it is an important and principled one.
80 posted on 01/30/2003 6:37:45 PM PST by Petronski (I'm not always cranky.)
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To: TroutStalker
Morning bump.
81 posted on 01/31/2003 4:03:57 AM PST by TroutStalker
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To: meyer
Why in the world would I want to put my own sensitive financial data, however insignificant it may be, on the internet. At least at home, it is relatively secure behind hardware and software firewalls.

Good point. I have a feeling though that what these guys are doing is a trend that is only likely to increase over time. I fear that eventually it's going to be necessary for me to run two separate computer systems at home: one system to store data and do all the important software work that never gets connected to the internet, and another system that does absolutely nothing but connect to the web for surfing and the occasional download.

82 posted on 01/31/2003 11:17:52 AM PST by jpl
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