REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 14, 2006 — Microsoft Corp. today followed the Federal Trade Commission’s lead in fighting deceptive spyware operations by filing an action against persons allegedly distributing a notorious spyware program, against which the FTC recently took action. Microsoft’s suit alleges that Timothy P. Taylor and others used screen savers and other seemingly benign programs as “Trojan horses” to surreptitiously install unwanted software on consumers’ computers. Microsoft seeks damages from defendants on the grounds that their installation practices violate the Washington Computer Spyware Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act.
“We commend the FTC for exposing this spyware operation,” said Scott Stein, senior attorney with the Internet Safety Enforcement Team at Microsoft. “Microsoft was proud to provide technical assistance to the FTC and also to take legal action against one part of the operation targeted by the FTC.”
Microsoft alleges that defendants distributed various seemingly innocuous software programs through Internet Web sites, including http://teamtaylormade.com. Many of these programs are presented as screen savers showing pictures of well-known celebrities such as Jessica Simpson. However, defendants’ programs included much more than pretty pictures. Once installed, the software would “call home” and surreptitiously download numerous other programs that bombard users with unwanted pop-up advertisements, track users’ Internet activity, redirect their Internet browsers to unwanted pages, add icons to the Microsoft® Windows® desktop, and change the users’ Windows Registry settings. Microsoft alleges that these programs were downloaded and installed without appropriate notice to or consent from users. Notably, defendants’ software installs even if users try to stop installation by choosing the appropriate options.
“These defendants were packaging a broad array of unwanted and intrusive programs with seemingly innocent programs,” Stein said. “They didn’t tell users about the numerous hidden programs that would be installed with the screen savers, and provided only an illusory option to stop installation. We have a responsibility to help protect our customers and to do whatever we can to prevent this kind of practice.”
The announcement from Microsoft today comes on the heels of a similar announcement from the FTC, available at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/11/mediamotor.htm. The FTC’s action alleges that a group operating under the name ERG Ventures LLC is behind software code that deceptively downloads numerous unwanted programs, and distributed that code to the public in several ways, including through affiliates such as Taylor.
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FTC v. ERG Ventures, LLC et al., U.S. District Court, D. Nev. No. 3:06-cv-00578-HDM-VPC.
Microsoft Corporation v. Timothy P. Taylor, et al., King County (Wash.) Superior Court, No. 06-2-36082-6-SEA.