Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed a lawsuit against Sony for violating the state's new anti-spyware law.
Attorney General Greg Abbott said he filed the lawsuit under a new Texas state law forbidding such hidden tracking tools, and predicted tens of thousands of Texans might have been hurt by Sony's anti-piracy software.
Sony has said the tracking technology was designed to prevent unlimited copying and unauthorized distribution of music and does not track personal information about computer users, he noted.
But Abbott said his suspicions about its real purpose were heightened by his investigation's findings that the hidden technology remains active at all times.
Citing Sony BMG's Web site, he said the software was placed on 52 music titles by artists ranging from Celine Dion to Flatt & Scruggs.
"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak-and-dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," Abbott said.
"Consumers who purchased a Sony CD thought they were buying music. Instead, they received spyware that can damage a computer, subject it to viruses and expose the consumer to possible identity crime."
The CDs do not create problems if used in a compact disc player, said Abbott's spokesman Tom Kelley.
However, any consumer attempting to play the discs on a personal computer must first sign a user agreement, which Abbott said secretly installs the tracking software without the consumer's knowledge.
"The file it is implanting into your system is possibly going to damage the unit plus expose you to all kinds of hackers, viruses, ID theft — you name it," Kelley said. "The consumer had no way of knowing whatsoever that this phantom file was being installed on their computer to gather information about them presumably."
Abbott's lawsuit seeks to determine what purposes Sony might have had in placing the software on computers, which affects Microsoft Windows folders, beyond merely tracking piracy violations.
The lawsuit as filed seeks $100,000 for each violation in damages to the state under the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act of 2005, a law filed by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.
Abbott also plans to amend the lawsuit to seek damages for individual consumers under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, said Kelley.