The Federal Trade Commission filed an order in a California court yesterday against an affiliate Webmaster whom the agency charged with spreading malicious computer code to bloggers and other users who believed they were signing up for free music.
The defendant, Nicholas C. Albert, was barred permanently from interfering with consumers’ computer use and distributing malicious software. He must also return ill-gotten gains of $3,300.
Mr. Albert had been paid to distribute the code by software developer Enternet Media.
In the 5-0 ruling, the FTC found Mr. Albert guilty of violating federal law by deceptively attracting bloggers and others through iwebtunes.com and iwebmusic.com with “free” music downloads to use on their blogs.
The downloads contained bundled software with java script code that tracked the users’ Internet activity, changed computer settings, collected personal information, and inserted new toolbars and pop-up ads into browsers. The commission also alleged that the code disrupted the users’ computer performance and was difficult for users to find and remove.
Once bloggers had downloaded Mr. Albert’s software and published the music on their sites, anyone who visited the blogs would not only hear music but also see pop-up ads.
The FTC case was brought against Mr. Albert with help from the Microsoft Corporation, Webroot Software Inc. and Google Inc.