01 January 2008

EU - Commission welcome intervention by Dutch regulator OPTA against spyware and malware

The Dutch Telecom Regulator OPTA has imposed a fine totalling 1 million euro on three Dutch enterprises for illegally installing software - so called spyware and adware - on more than 22 million computers in the Netherlands and elsewhere. The companies fined now by OPTA operated together under the name DollarRevenue, which was considered to be among the 10 largest spyware distributors in the world. They managed to install the software on personal computers via downloads from the Internet and by exploiting security loopholes in computer programmes. The illegally installed software allowed the companies to spy on the consumer's on line behaviour and triggered pop-up windows containing specific advertising material. Unlawful access to a personal computer to stall information such as spyware and adware is prohibited under European law, namely article 5(3) of the EU's ePrivacy Directive of 2002. National regulators are called upon to enforce this prohibition by deterrent measures. Yesterday's decision by OPTA is the first time that a national regulator has resorted to drastic fines against a company acting in violation of the EU ban.