Harvard and Oxford University have launched a website that will act as an online hall of shame for those trafficking in spyware or questionable forms of adware.

StopBadware.org will single out individuals, vendors or businesses for propagating and promoting so-called "badware". Who gets the treatment will fall to a new "The Stop Badware Coalition".

John Palfrey, professor of Internet law at Harvard and co-director of the Coalition as well as executive director at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said he expects the newly launched site to act like a neighborhood watch by highlighting both criminal spyware programs and their use as well as adware that while not illegal, could be "unscrupulous".

The Stop Badware Coalition expects to make its first posting naming in a month. "We'll point out that there are a lot of things that are not illegal but may be unscrupulous," Palfrey said.

He noted the goal of The Stop Badware Coalition is to illuminate the workings of spyware and the worst forms of adware so it "will no longer be allowed to hide in the shadows of the Internet. We want to help put some definitions on this".

The Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports with its independent products testing, has joined in the effort through its grant-funded WebWatch division.

Beau Brender, director of Consumer Reports WebWatch, said his organisation’s contribution will be to "help make value judgments" about what badware is. "There’s a lot that is legal but still annoying," he said.

Jonathan Zittrain, co-director of StopBadware.org and professor of Internet Governance and regulation at Oxford University, said the time had come to help people know "what they're getting when they encounter code".

One underlying concern about badware, the Coalition’s organizers agree, is that people are starting to retreat from using the Web as their worry about spyware and adware grows.