PR and the Browzar debacle

, posted: 10-Sep-2006 12:16

As I was going through the Death2Spam folders for my Fairfax Business Media email account, I came across this press release from Chameleon PR:

Dear Juha

I write with details of a new ‘anti-big brother’ internet browser from Freeserve’s founder, Ajaz Ahmed, that enables anyone worldwide to surf the Web without leaving a history of the websites visited on the computer they use to access the internet – protecting their personal privacy.

[names snipped]

Chameleon PR

EMBARGOED 00.01am GMT Thursday 31 AUGUST 2006


New internet Browzar allows private web surfing while protecting personal data

Freeserve founder, Ajaz Ahmed, has launched his next global freebie, Browzar, a new internet browser which allows people worldwide to surf the Web without leaving a history of websites visited and protects against leaving personal details on the computers they use to access the internet.

The launch of Browzar ( comes after AOL employees published personal search histories of 685,000 of its US customers and recent research found one in five second hand computers are resold with personal data left on them by previous owners*.

Free and downloadable in seconds or run directly from the Web, Browzar does not require any installation or registration and doesn’t save information from any websites visited while using it. Cache, history, cookies and auto-complete forms are all automatically deleted, protecting people’s privacy while online.

If you want to know what people using your computer have been searching for, just click in the box in your search engine, it’ll probably make very interesting reading. If you double click in Browzar, you’ll get no list of search terms.

Ajaz Ahmed, founder of Browzar, said: “Browzar will do for surfing and searching the web with privacy what eBay did for auctions and My Space did for social networking. It is the first in a range of products that we’ll be rolling out this year.

“We divulge masses of information about our habits, hobbies and financial dealings while online, often unknowingly, and there are times when all of us would rather this was kept private. Using Browzar, anyone worldwide can surf the Web privately in the knowledge that no-one will stumble across the sites they have visited when using the same computer.

“You can use Browzar through your existing internet window to run it directly from the Web, so you don’t even need to download it to the computer you use. If using a shared computer, it gives you peace of mind that you are not leaving personal details behind after you have finished surfing the Web.”


Ahmed said: “Although it’s possible to delete history folders and empty cache with existing internet browsers, the majority of internet users worldwide don’t have the time or expertise to do this.

“There is no free, method that offers the freedom to surf the Web privately that is as simple and easy to use as Browzar. It doesn’t keep copies of pages that have been visited or retain details that have been entered into online forms.”


How it works

Although it is a small programme, Browzar delivers a full web browsing experience that is secured for privacy from the moment it starts. This has been achieved by reusing some software components which are already installed on computers, such as parts of Internet Explorer. Temporary files are created which Browzar uses to hold any information which it needs to work with while you are online. These files are automatically deleted as soon as you shut Browzar down. There is even a function to erase these temporary files if your computer has crashed and you need to restart.

(Release shortened for space)
Those are some big promises and ChameleonPR is happy to play on Internet users' privacy fears clearly. Unfortunately for Browzar however, the press didn't buy into the ChameleonPR's spin. Browzar is accused of being Adware that didn't protect users' privacy as promised. In fact, it's been savaged by just about everyone who has tried it. I'm not sure how Browzar could protect against AOL posting its members' searches on the Internet, or how it could wipe sensitive personal information off computers that are being resold either.

Contrasting reality with ChameleonPR's press release, I'm left wondering if the agency did the right thing by pushing Browzar like this. It's yet another example of why I as a rule totally distrust press releases. There have been too many cases where releases and PR material totally contradict reality - that by itself becomes a story but you have to wonder why a PR agency would not try to do a better job for its client and point out that empty spin doesn't work?

Maybe ChameleonPR doesn't have the ability in-house to check out Browzar to ensure that it does what its creator says, but shouldn't they have tried to get some assurances thereof?

After Browzar got shot down in flames by media, I expected to hear from ChameleonPR with some sort of explanation or maybe even rebuttal, but so far nothing has been received. This is quite ironic, since ChameleonPR boasts about its "Crisis and Issues Management" capabilities on its website:

It is dependent upon the situation but by working with Chameleon we can advise you on whether you need to be pro-active or pre-emptive to the situation and inform your target audience. It could be that only certain audiences are told such as analysts and employees but that journalists and suppliers are not.

Yes... quite.

Other related posts:
Video: Kim Dotcom and Mathias Ortman at the IITP Mega breakfast
Two-factor authentication broken
The problem with naming and shaming

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