Judge rules against accused spyware distributor

A judge enters a judgment against a man accused of distributing spyware.

A US judge has granted a request by the US Federal Trade Commission for a judgment against a company accused of distributing spyware and adware onto people's computers.

A judge in the US District Court for the District of Nevada has ordered Timothy P. Taylor to give up US$4,595.36, the money he made from a scheme that "tricked" consumers into downloading spyware by offering free screensavers and videos on his TeamTaylorMade.com Web site, the FTC said Monday.

Software on Taylor's site included spyware called Media Motor from ERG Ventures that changed consumers' home pages, tracked their Internet activity, altered browser settings, degraded computer performance and disabled antispyware and antivirus software, the FTC said.

ERG Ventures, based in Nevada, agreed to pay US$330,000 as part of a settlement with the FTC last September. The default judgment against Taylor, who has lived in Tennessee, ends the November 2006 lawsuit the FTC filed against ERG Ventures, its owners and Taylor.

The FTC had accused ERG Ventures and Taylor of distributing spyware that infected 15 million computers. Many of the malware programs were "extremely difficult or impossible" for consumers to remove from their computers, the FTC said.

The judgment entered against Taylor bars him from distributing software that interferes with consumers' computers, including software that tracks consumers' Internet activity or collects other personal information; generates disruptive pop-up advertising; tampers with or disables other installed programs; or installs other advertising software onto consumers' computers.

The judgment also requires Taylor to disclose the name and function of all software he installs on consumers' computers in the future, and to provide consumers with the option to cancel the installation after viewing the disclosure.

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