Consumer group calls MP3 site "worst of the bad"

StopBadware.org will ask the FTC to investigate FastMP3Search.com.ar, a Web site that offers free MP3 search software.

Two consumer protection groups are asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate FastMP3Search.com.ar, a Web site that distributes software that can be used to search for digital music on the Web.

The FastMP3Search plugin disables the Windows Firewall, installs adware and Trojan horse programs, 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. "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 last year," Palfrey said.

Representatives from FastMP3Search.com.ar could not be reached immediately for comment. The Web site is registered to a company called Direct S.A., 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 Web site 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 Web sites in the past, the fact that FastMP3Search.com.ar appears to be based in Argentina complicates matters, Palfrey admitted. Still the FTC has worked on international efforts to fight spam and online fraud.

"When an application is hosted outside of the U.S., but is plainly affecting U.S. consumers, they can coordinate with other governments," Palfrey said. "We would hope that they 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 Group, 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 to the Jessica Simpson Screensaver, to AOL's free client.

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