Intuit Addresses TurboTax Controversy

AccountingWEB recently reported on the controversy surrounding TurboTax 2002 and the alleged "Spyware" software that it was using in the installation process. Upon release of the product, comments in user groups, shopping sites and chat rooms quickly fueled concerns over adverse affects caused by methods the popular tax preparation software was using to combat illegal copying. Intuit, maker of TurboTax, is now offering results of independent tests of the software, and apologies to those who my have been adversely affected.

Intuit engaged the services of PCTest, an independent laboratory, to address consumer complaints about TurboTax 2002. The results of the test confirm the technology does not negatively impact computer performance or compromise customer privacy.

Consumer concerns and test results included:

  • Concern: SafeCast, the Macrovision software which is intended to stop the ability to pass on copies of the software is always running in the background, thereby using up memory.
    Response: Test results show that the software uses less than 1MB of memory on a standard Windows XP machine.

  • Concern: SafeCast's mechanism for storing its activation code in an unreachable, non-viewable portion of a computer hard drive, concerned many customers who want to be able to know what it on their computer.
    Response: Although this should not pose any problems for consumers, Intuit has decided to change the methodology for storage on next year's version.

  • Concern: SafeCast disables some CD rewritable drives.
    Response: Test results show that this is not the case, and that the complaints were likely caused by other Macrovision products.

  • Concern: SafeCast collects information on the PC it is installed on and transmits that information to a third party.
    Response: Test results show that it does not transmit or collect any information, and that SafeCast is mischaracterized as "Spyware."

Some of the specific facts PCTest validated about the software are:

  • It does not affect the performance of the computer differently than any other similar size program.

  • It only uses a small amount of RAM (less than 1MB).

  • SafeCast does continue to run and use a small amount of RAM after closing TurboTax.

  • It does not disable a user's CD-RW/CD-ROM drive.

  • No personal information is sent to Intuit during the activation process.

  • It is not "spyware". Only files and registry entries relating to TurboTax and SafeCast are installed.

  • When TurboTax is uninstalled, some SafeCast information is left in an area unused by the Windows file system.

  • Tax data can be accessed if someone changes computers or hard disks.

Intuit's main concern has been the illegal passing along of the software to a customer's friends and family. Intuit has committed to improving product activation for next year to its more than 3.5 million customers. "We're looking at a number of things but I can say with certainty that next year, we will implement product activation that has no memory-resident component when TurboTax isn't in use and that completely uninstalls when TurboTax is uninstalled," said Tom Allanson, senior vice president of Intuit's Consumer Tax Division. "This is our first year out of the gate and we've learned a lot. Most important, our customers have provided valuable feedback that we're already using to improve the customer experience this year and for coming years."

Access the full results of PCTest's independent testing of TurboTax 2002.

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