McAfee's SiteAdvisor' program & the
invalid rating that they gave to our website
Positive aspects of the program:
McAfee is one of the leading software suppliers of programs to combat viruses,
spam, spyware and online scams. We have used some of their programs and found them to be
very reliable and reasonably priced.
One of their programs is SiteAdvisor. It places a small icon labeled
"McAfee SiteAdvisor" on your Internet browser. The icon has a green, orange, or red
background depending upon whether they regard the site that you are viewing as:
Safe: They comment: "We've tested this site and found it safe to use."
Questionable: They may post a reviewer's message, like: "After entering
our e-mail address on this site, we received 50 e-mails per week."
Dangerous: They might say: "In our tests, we found downloads on this
site that some people consider adware, spyware, or other unwanted programs."
Sites that have not been rated yet are shown with a gray background.
A simplified version is available at no cost; it can be downloaded from
http://www.siteadvisor.com/. SiteAdvisor' Plus, a version with more
features, is available for a modest cost.
"Safety ratings from McAfee SiteAdvisor are based on automated safety tests of
Web sites (including of our
own site) and
are enhanced with user feedback from our users and our own manual analysis.
We do not accept payment from sites to be rated, so we have no conflict of
interest. We also document our safety tests for every site we analyze."
We recommend that you download this program, while keeping in mind that any
non-green ratings may or may not be valid. To find out why we list this
precaution, please continue reading.
Negative aspects of the program:
There are some very serious problems with
their system. All are related to sites that receive a non-green rating that is
not justified by the facts:
It seems that when they rate a site yellow or red, they do not inform
the site's webmaster. That means that unless webmasters continually check
their SiteAdvisor rating, they may have a negative rating for some time.
This would scare away surfers from their web site.
McAfee does not offer a simple, quick method for a webmaster to appeal a rating. When
we challenged our orange rating, we sent an Email to McAfee Customer Service
which was not returned or acknowledged. We later found a form on their web site that we could fill out. A
robot apparently answered our form, suggesting that we go to a media FAQ
page. That suggestion was completely unrelated to our request. When we responded to the
robot, a real human appears to have answered our Email and directed us to a SiteAdvisor complaint department at
We lodged a complaint with them early on the morning of 2007-APR-26 and finally received a response
on 2007-APR-28 saying that our complaint had been sent to a senior person for
On APR-30, we received an Email that said, in part:
"SiteAdvisor senior engineers have cleared this domain for a green Web
safety rating switch. Please allow approximately four weeks for the data
to propagate through our database."
A database that takes four weeks to change must be unique on the Internet. I
suspect that they simply do not have the staff to keep up with changes that
have to be made.
When McAfee rates a web site orange or red, they are directly affecting the
number of visitors, the reputation, the credibility, and the revenue received by that web site.
We feel that they have an obligation to the entire Internet community to:
Inform the webmaster of any web site that they have downgraded. This
would preferably be done in advance of any negative rating in order to give
the webmaster a chance to dispute the rating.
Provide a direct link on their site review page to their complaint Email
Not downgrade a web site because of a single negative review without
first checking its validity. If they had done this on our site, they would have retained our green
rating and rejected the complaint review as being completely without merit.
Quickly correct any error that they have made.
In spite of these deficiencies, we recommend the program for limited use by
Internet users. One should keep in mind that the rating may be many
weeks out of date.
Why was this site once given an orange rating?
McAfee encourages people to register with them as a SiteAdvisor reviewer, and
to post comments about their experiences online. SiteAdvisor reports ten
reviews for our web site, not counting one review that we wrote ourselves. Of
the ten, nine are positive and one is negative. The latter complains that our
site generates spam messages.
We feel that dissemination of spam is unethical. We deeply resent being accused of engaging in
Scrolled down to a form provided by
Beliefnet. The form allows visitors to our web site to enter their Email
address and then sign up for any of nine daily mailings and one weekly mailing
Signed up for seven daily mailings.
Signed up for the weekly mailing.
Started to receive the requested 50 mailings a week.
Wrote a negative review of our web site, claiming that the 50 reports
per week that she/he requested are spam (unsolicited Emails).
subscribe to some of these Beliefnet reports and find that they are of quite
high quality. However, the reviewer decided that these mailings, which he/she specifically requested, are all
spam, and wrote a negative review with SiteAdvisor. They stated that web site is: "kind of spammy but its fine."
We have no way of telling whether this reviewer:
Does not understand that requested material is not
Has a faulty memory and cannot remember that they specifically asked for
the 50 reports.
Is making a malicious attack on our web site.
We asked McAfee to review and delete that negative rating, returning us
to a green "OK" rating. In the meantime, all of the over 3,700 essays
on our web site carried the McAfee SiteAdvisor "warning" sticker.
They replied after four days, saying that they will restore our web site to
"OK" rating. However it took almost three more weeks for their data
base to be changed. Our feeling is that their sluggishness in
correcting this error is inexcusable and reflects very badly on their site's
credibility. They simply do not seem to care about the damage that they are
inflicting on ethical and safe web sites like ours.
To make matters worse, one of their reviewers -- perhaps the same one --
lodged another complaint, almost identical to the previous one. Our site was
again downgraded to "orange" in 2008-JAN. We lodged another complaint
with McAfee and they restored the site to "green."