AG on Sony Spyware: 'Cloak-and-Dagger Deceit'

CDs contained program designed to limit unlimited copying, but Abbott alleges danger of identity theft

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott last week filed a groundbreaking lawsuit against Sony BMG Music Entertainment, alleging the company secretly installed an invisible "spyware" program onto millions of music CDs, in violation of state law, leaving consumers and their computers vulnerable to identity thieves, hackers, and viruses. "Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak-and-dagger deceit," Abbott said. He filed suit under the state's new Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act of 2005, which went into effect in September and bans concealed tracking software. The software – reportedly intended as an anti-piracy measure – was installed on 4.7 million CDs released by Sony under 52 different titles. The CDs are designed so that they will not play through a computer until the user acknowledges a user agreement, which, when accepted, causes the surreptitious installation of undetectable spyware tracking files.

Sony BMG says the program is designed only to prevent unlimited copying, and is otherwise dormant. The AG's investigation, however, revealed that the program remains active at all times, "prompting concerns about its true purpose," Abbott said in a press release. "Consumers who purchased a Sony CD thought they were buying music," he said. "Instead, they received spyware that can damage a computer … and expose the consumer to possible identity crimes."

Although Sony says it has recalled the affected CDs, Abbott said that AG investigators were able to buy the infected discs at Austin retail stores as recently as Nov. 20. Abbott's suit seeks $100,000 for each violation of state law, along with attorney fees and investigative costs. For more information, go to www.oag.state.tx.us.

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More spyware
Abbott Expands Sony Spyware Suit
Abbott Expands Sony Spyware Suit
Music giant also engaged in deceptive practices, AG says

Jordan Smith, Dec. 30, 2005

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, Sony BMG Entertainment, spyware, Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act of 2005

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