"An industry-academia group designed to raise public awareness about software that violates fair information and privacy practices has labeled recent versions of RealPlayer video streaming software as "badware," charging that the software surreptitiously installs pop-up ad serving software as well as the Rhapsody media player engine.
Stopbadware.org issued an alert about two software titles from RealNetworks - RealPlayer 10.5 and RealPlayer 11, saying each violated the group's badware guidelines...John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center and a professor of Internet law at Harvard, said the RealNetworks company has a history of operating at the margins of consumer privacy issues. "What was clear to us was that [RealPlayer] 10.5 and 11 went over what was, to us, a clear line."
Palfrey said Google was unlikely to list RealMedia's site as badware, however: that classification, he noted, was generally reserved for sites that try to install unwanted or malicious software when a person merely visits the site."
If you're interested in learning practical ways to protect yourself from this kind of intrusive software then I can recommend the Open University's ten week course on Vandalism in Cyberspace: understanding and combating malicious software, part of the University's Relevant Knowledge offerings.