I’m an advisor to Harvard Law’s Berkman Center, where I work specifically with StopBadware, a group of talented folks who are helping to identify and report on software that does bad stuff to your computer. Malware, spyware, adware, badware, whatever you want to call it, the issue is control and notice: do you control your computer, and does the software you install provide you with adequate information about what it’s doing, why, and how?
If you haven’t been keeping track, the state of badware has evolved extremely rapidly over the last couple of years. For example, a major badware delivery mechanism these days is not so much evil web sites, but rather mom-and-pop sites that get cracked so that they become evil without their operators’ knowledge, surreptitiously distributing badware that exploits a browser bug to install itself silently on visitors’ computers. It’s getting ugly out there.
StopBadware just recently published their latest report on the state of badware (go straight to the PDF). You should read it.