Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Privacy Invasions by Commercial Enterprises -- the Example of NVIDIA Update Components and Their Installation of a Hidden User, Updatuser

I was checking permissions on my home network today and found a new user -- Updatuser -- who had been granted permission to view my files, but not (knowingly) by me. Online research led to the finding that Updatuser was installed surreptitiously by NVIDIA (perhaps as part of checking an installation option, with unforseen privacy consequences).

I have nothing against that company and the following online chat with SEN at Nvidia technical support solved the problem of deleting Updatuser via a new, more limited "clean" installation of Nvidia driver software. Nvidia is to be commended for this example of their technical service. Well done.

However, the sneaking in of an unknown and "unconsented to" user (here Updatuser) by a commercial company is symptomatic of a trend in the digital world today whereby user privacy is being abused increasingly by private companies, e.g. by the networking companies, or by the massive totally unnecessary permissions demanded by apps -- apps which by default should be permitted only access to what is absolutely necessary for operation of the app.

With legislatures and courts populated by many apparently politically and religiously backward-yearning people possessed of limited digital knowledge and understanding, it is not surprising that little has been done in the legal world to solve these glaring privacy problems and abuses.

Too many people in government and the judiciary are simply too involved in trying to bring us back into the 18th century or into even more remote religious dark ages -- rather than turning their attention to solve the problems that we actually have today in our modern, contemporary world.

In any case, here is how to get rid of Updatuser (my chat with SEN at Nvidia today, July 29, 2014, with some minor typographical errors corrected)....
Status: Connected
Sen (Responding)
Sen: Hi, my name is Sen. How may I help you?
Andis Kaulins: how do I delete UpdatUser which has been installed on my Acer laptop without my permission and apparently stems from Nvidia ... this is no way to do business.
Sen: I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you. Please be assured that I will do my best to help you or point you in the right direction.
Andis Kaulins: so you are a computer not a person, is that right?
Sen: “NVIDIA Update Components” is used to provide you notification, whenever there is any newer driver version.
Sen: Right
Andis Kaulins: delete Updatuser
Sen: I am sorry, I am a human
Andis Kaulins: then how do I delete Updatuser?
Sen: When you select "Perform Clean Installation" while installing the driver, it will automatically remove the older driver, then it restarts the PC (if required) and installs the new driver.
Sen: try "Perform Clean Installation" with unchecking “NVIDIA Update Components”
Sen: Let me know the Operating System (Windows XP/ Vista/ 7 / 8 ) with the version (32 or 64 bit).
Andis Kaulins: Perform Clean Installation - where is it found?
Andis Kaulins: I am going to make a blog posting about this.
Andis Kaulins: 64 bit Windows 8
Sen: 1. Right click on empty space of your screen.
2. Open NVIDIA Control Panel.
3. Click on "System Information" from the left bottom corner.
4. Let me know the driver version.
5. What is the NVIDIA GPU model under "Items" in the left side of that same window ?
Andis Kaulins: GeForce GT 750M
Andis Kaulins: Driver 327.02
Andis Kaulins: API version 11.1
Sen: Thank You for this information. Please close all other windows open except this chat window.
Sen: Please download and save the Driver on the "desktop" using the following link:
While installing the drivers, Make sure that you select "custom" installation and then check all the options including "perform a clean install".
Sen: You may "Uncheck" those "3D Vision", "3D Vision Controller", “NVIDIA Update Components” and "NVIDIA HD Audio" options, since you are not using them.
Andis Kaulins: what do you mean that I should save it on desktop and how can I use the link if I have closed the browser?
Sen: You need to open a new browser
Andis Kaulins: ok, the url page says GeForce 337.88 Driver, is that correct?
Sen: Correct
Sen: Just like this picture :
Andis Kaulins: ok, thank you - your company has several options - if you sneak in a special user, you have to inform THE USER about that beforehand and ask for his or her consent, otherwise in my opinion this is clearly illegal --- I also do not see why Updatuser is then listed as free to view all my files, which is not necessary for simple updates -- something is wrong there as a matter of invasion of privacy -- please pass that on to the people who run your company -- there are other manufacturers and I am unlikely to buy Nvidia in the future -- you, however, have done a fine job of informing me, thank you!
Sen: I will forward your message to developer department
Andis Kaulins: my options to check -- they automatically shifted me to the German version -- Grafiktreiber (graphics driver), NVIDIA GeForce Experience, and PhysX-Systemsoftware
Andis Kaulins: should I check all of them?
Andis Kaulins: instead of "custom" the German version uses "new installation" for the other checkmark
Sen: Please see the picture I have sent above"
After the new "clean" installation of the Nvidia dirver, Updatuser has apparently been removed. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it remains that way. I might add that I also checked on the "NVIDIA GeForce Experience" and on the "PhysX-Systemsoftware" both of which I determined I do not need. Some gamers may. However, please be aware that checking one or both of those options may -- and probably does -- reinstall Updatuser.

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