How do you feel about spyware? Repulsed by the idea of software on your computer recording your activities? Tools that record what software you use, the websites you visit, and perhaps even access your webcam, are typically employed by hackers and scammers.
You certainly wouldn’t expect to find such a tool pre-installed on your computer by the manufacturer, would you?
Yet this is exactly what many have accused HP of recently. But surely a company of that size wouldn’t have put their hard-won reputation on the line… would they? Let’s find out what has happened, why HP installed the software, and how you can remove it.
Why Would a PC Manufacturer Spy on its Customers?
Computer manufacturers have good reasons to monitor how their hardware is used. Telemetry data is vital, and it’s not like Windows PCs aren’t already sharing such data.
Let’s be honest: PCs and laptops are more complicated than ever before. Sharing such data with the manufacturer enables them to assess how drivers are running, what apps perform well, why the operating system fails, and so on. It makes sense: consoles share telemetry data, as do smartphones and tablets.
But telemetry data is not spyware. They may seem similar, but there is a clear distinction: telemetry data is non-identifiable. Regardless, finding new software “appearing” on your PC without your consent is uncomfortable.
Users Accuse HP of Installing Spyware
Following the seemingly automated installation of the HP Touchpoint Analytics, users were quick to take to the HP forums. The first user reporting HP Touchpoint Manager’s appearance was krzemien.
“I found HP Touchpoint Manager unexpectedly deployed on my PC earlier this week (16/11) – obviously without my consent. I understand that it hoovers all sorts of telemetry data – and I am not willing to share too much of it really, definitely not without my knowledge.”
Meanwhile, user MPrudente reported
“Got it installed automatically in 17-11-2017. No idea were [sic] it came from and it installed itself in 3 different HP laptops.”
It’s believed the majority of HP laptops have this software installed. But what has the manufacturer got to say about it?
HP’s Response: It’s Not Spyware, and it’s Not a Secret
Strenuous denials have been issued from HP Inc. Mike Nash, HP’s vice president of customer experience for personal systems, explained that the HP Touchpoint Analytics tool has been around for several years.
Why did no one notice? Because it was previously integrated with the HP Support Assistant troubleshooting tool.
HP has also released a statement.
“HP Touchpoint Analytics is a service we have offered since 2014 as part of HP Support Assistant. It anonymously collects diagnostic information about hardware performance. No data is shared with HP unless access is expressly granted. Customers can opt-out or uninstall the service at any time.
“HP Touchpoint Analytics was recently updated and there were no changes to privacy settings as part of this update. We take customer privacy very seriously and act in accordance with a strict policy, available here.”
It’s also worth noting that the HP Support Assistant prompts for permission to share telemetry data when the app is installed.
A recent update to the Support Assistant has prompted some different behaviour from HP Touchpoint Analytics, it seems, included increased resource usage. This is believed to be due to testing, although the Touchpoint Analytics software is also capable of downloading updates.
Manufacturer Malware? Lenovo Beat HP to It!
It’s certainly not the first time a PC manufacturer has been accused of something like this. Last time, however, the evidence was pretty comprehensive: Lenovo pre-installed malware in various laptops in late 2014. The so-called “Superfish” browser hijack also enabled man-in-the-middle attacks, and while they offered a tool to repair the SSL hijack, as many as three models of Lenovo laptop were believed to be affected.
As a Lenovo user at the time, I personally resolved never to use their equipment again. Especially when it turned out that Superfish was just the tip of the iceberg.
That’s not to say HP has been entirely transparent.
Privacy concerns over HP laptops is nothing new. In early 2017, it transpired that an audio driver from Conexant was logging every keystroke. The security and privacy implications of this are considerable.
If you’re unaware, keyloggers are capable of recording everything you type. Emails, web searches, key presses in games… and passwords. This particular keylogger would store everything in a text file on your hard drive. Rebooting will stop this, but old data can potentially still be retrieved.
Our guide to investigating this, and removing/upgrading the driver, will help you to avoid this problem on your HP computer.
Concerned? HP Touchpoint Analytics Is Simple to Uninstall
Noticed some unwanted performance hits from the HP Touchpoint Analytics software, or simply want to remove it? It’s simple.
Begin by opening your Windows Control Panel (WIN + R, type control panel and click OK), then click Uninstall a program. Find and select HP Touchpoint Analytics Client, then click Uninstall/Change.
Note that some versions of the software have a different name: for example, HP Touchpoint Manager. If the software you find begins “HP Touchpoint” then it’s almost certainly the same telemetry software — uninstall it.
Meanwhile, you can disable the service without uninstalling the HP Touchpoint Analytics Client software. This isn’t necessary if you have already uninstalled.
Press Windows Key + R then input services.msc and click OK to open the Services screen, then find the entry for HP Touchpoint Analytics. Right-click and select Properties, then find the Startup type box. Here, select Disabled, then under Service Status, click Stop.
Confirm your changes with OK.
Spyware Is a Problem: Regularly Check for Malware
This problem with HP’s telemetry software was uncovered thanks to vigilant users, people keeping a close eye on their PC’s performance. We can’t all be that vigilant, but we can run regular checks for malware, spyware, and other unwanted software. Oh, and for the HP Touchpoint Analytics software mysteriously re-enabling itself…
Running a comprehensive security suite is one option. Many of the antivirus packages in our best of list will do the job. But you should also complement this with a secondary tool, such as Malwarebytes. At the very least, Windows users should be running Windows Defender.
Were you hit by HP’s alleged spyware? Do you have concerns over bloatware installed on your PC or laptop? Tell us about it in the comments box.