The Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC) has released the final draft of a risk-modelling description that sets out the objective criteria anti-spyware developers use to determine whether a particular piece of software should be identified as spyware.

Spyware is a type of software that secretly forwards information about a computer user's online activities to another individual or company without the user's knowledge or permission. It is proliferating on the internet in many guises.

The hope is that the description will provide a common guide on evaluating this type of software, leading eventually to better anti-spyware applications.

The ASC, which includes Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL among its members, released an earlier draft of the description for public comment in October. These comments have been taken on board and are reflected in the final version.