Microsoft is reportedly in talks to buy Claria Corp., one of the worst distributors of spyware in the world. It is utter lunacy, the single most destructive and humiliating thing that Microsoft has done in years. Claria is responsible for Gator, exceptionally irritating software that was partially responsible for Kazaa becoming unusable, in addition to a host of other software with dozens of names. Its software is installed by stealth, damages the systems it is installed on, and is a nightmare to remove. Claria has cleaned up its act a bit lately, but it is still infesting systems every day. It’s estimated that Claria spyware is on 2% of the computers in the world.

Here’s a typical article by a columnist who is disgusted that Microsoft might reward these people. In any reasonable world, these folks would be in jail, not setting themselves up to become rich.

Researchers have now discovered that Microsoft Antispyware was changed recently to make it more likely that Claria software would not be removed from your computer. Although it is still identified by the Microsoft program, the default recommendation is to “Ignore.”

It’s worth noting that this is only one chapter in this story – the adware/spyware vendors are well-funded and getting more aggressive. Other anti-spyware vendors have been pressured into relaxing their standards as well. There are more anecdotes and links here if you want to add to your feelings of frustration and despair.