New York State’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, filed a lawsuit against an Internet marketing company today, saying Intermix Media Inc. is the source of secretly installed spyware that has illegally sent pop-up advertisements and other intrusions to millions of computer users.
Mr. Spitzer said the Los Angeles-based company failed to properly inform people that along with downloads of free computer games and screen savers, visitors to the company’s Web sites were installing software that delivered pop-up ads, redirected Web sites and placed advertising toolbars on screens.
Such practices violate state law, which prohibits false advertising and deceptive business methods, Mr. Spitzer said.
“Spyware and adware are more than an annoyance,” Mr. Spitzer said in a statement. “These fraudulent programs foul machines, undermine productivity and in many cases frustrate consumers’ efforts to remove them from their computers.”
Mr. Spitzer also said the downloaded software was too hard for computer users to remove.
Intermix said in a statement on its Web site today that it “does not promote or condone spyware” and had “voluntarily ceased distribution of the applications at issue earlier this month.”
The company, according to the statement, “remains committed to putting this legacy issue behind it as soon as practicable.”
“We expect to continue our discussions with the New York Attorney General’s Office and are still hopeful of reaching an appropriate and amicable resolution,” the company said.
Intermix, whose stock was down sharply this afternoon, also operates the popular MySpace.com Web site.
Mr. Spitzer’s office said it had documented at least 10 Web sites, including flowgo.com, from which Intermix or its agents were installing spyware, either misleading consumers or failing to warn them. The attorney general’s office estimated that more than 3.7 million programs had been downloaded by New York residents, and millions more by computer users in the rest of the United States.