FastMP3Search.com.ar, a website that distributes software that can be used to search for digital music online, will be investigated by the US FTC (Federal Trade Commission), if two consumer protection groups get their way.
The FastMP3Search plugin disables the Windows Firewall, installs adware and Trojans and generally hobbles the user's PC, said John Palfrey, the Harvard Law School professor who is StopBadware.org's co-director. The software is also virtually impossible to remove once installed, he added.
StopBadware.org and the Center for Democracy and Technology plan to file a formal complaint with the FTC today. "We are asking the FTC to take a close look at an application that we consider to be the worst of the bad applications that we've seen over the course of the past year," Palfrey said.
Representatives from FastMP3Search.com.ar could not be reached immediately for comment. The website is registered to a company called Direct SA, based in Buenos Aires, according to the Network Information Center Argentina domain name database.
StopBadware.org was also unable to reach representatives from the company before filing its complaint, Palfrey said.
The company's website tells users that the software will provide a fast way to search the internet for downloadable music files, "in exchange for your agreement to also install our plugin software, which may occasionally display ads on your computer".
Although the FTC has sought court orders to shut down websites in the past, the fact that FastMP3Search.com.ar appears to be based in Argentina complicates matters, Palfrey admitted. However, the FTC's work is not entirely confined to the US: it has worked on international efforts to fight spam and online fraud.
"When an application is hosted outside of the US, but is plainly affecting US consumers, it can co-ordinate with other governments," Palfrey said. "We would hope it would start an investigation of this application."
FTC representatives could not be reached immediately for comment.
Formed earlier this year with funding from Google, Lenovo and Sun Microsystems, StopBadware.org has issued reports on dozens of software products that engage in questionable or downright malicious behavior. It has exposed problems in everything from Kazaa and the Jessica Simpson Screensaver to AOL's free client.