The FTC announced they have fined the people who make Elite Toolbar $2M dollars and prohibited them from making misleading claims regarding their software in the future. Specifically, the FTC prohibited the defendants from:
distributing software code that tracks consumers’ Internet activity or
collects other personal information, changes their preferred homepage
or other browser settings, inserts new advertising toolbars or other
frames onto their browsers, installs dialer programs, inserts
advertising hyperlinks into third-party Web pages, or installs other
advertising software code, file, or content on consumers’ computers.
Elite Toolbar is a very difficult to remove type of spyware, and in certain incarnations, allegedly stole credit card information. Searching Google for "Elitebar" returns more than 10 "sponsored links" (people who paid for their ad to show) — all of the ads purporting to assist the removal of Elitebar.
So, showing my inquisitive nature, I called some of the numbers listed at the bottom of the press release and spoke to an FTC PR contact. I wanted to know if this case was part of a stronger push by the FTC to address the overall spyware problem through legal means. The PR person explained that the FTC would continue pursuing spyware (and other unwanted software) companies and that this specific case is just part of their overall efforts — it didn’t really represent an increase in targeting spyware companies.
If you have been the victim of Identity Theft (by spyware stealing your credit card info, or other means), you should file a complaint with the FTC. At the very least, this lets the FTC keep track of the number of incoming complaints, the type of complaints and estimate the amount of resources they should spend on specific consumer concerns.