The New York Times reports that a leading software watchdog group, StopBadware.org, has warned users about AOL’s free client software on the grounds that it shows characteristics consistent with what it deems “badware.” The StopBadware organization, jointly run by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and the Oxford Internet Institute of Oxford University, was formed in part to help consumers spot shady software. The term “badware” describes a variety of applications that attempt to install extra components without informing consumers what these components will do. StopBadware has posted an “open inquiry” into the AOL software, indicating that it has opened a dialogue with the company about its practices. According to the group, the AOL client software reportedly operates in a manner that is similar to some adware and spyware programs, in that it installs software deceptively, alters the web browser and other components without notifying the user, and will not uninstall completely. AOL dismisses the group’s warnings and says it soon will release a new version that addresses many of these concerns…