Eliot Spitzer: High-tech felt his impact

Spammers, spyware companies, telecom execs were among attorney general-turned-governor's targets

Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced New York governor making headlines in the US this week for being linked to a prostitution ring, is perhaps best known for his aggressive takedown of unethical Wall Street firms during his days as attorney general. But the former prosecutor also played a big role in cleaning up the high-tech and network industries.

Here's a look back at some of Spitzer's documented higher-profile tech industry efforts:

  • In 2006, Spitzer was among a slew of attorneys general filing a joint antitrust lawsuit against seven dynamic RAM makers over alleged price fixing. Spitzer said at the time that the alleged conspiracy added at least US$1 billion to the cost of the memory chips.

  • Spitzer in 2005 and 2006 went after alleged spyware companies Intermix Media and Direct Revenue. Both companies disputed Spitzer's charges, though both companies' names also came up in a class action lawsuit filed in 2006 by an antispyware activist and lawyer named Ben Edelman, who accused Yahoo of placing advertisements on spyware-vendor and "low-quality" sites. By the way, Spitzer in 2003, helped to get Yahoo to change its marketing policy after getting slapped for telemarketing and e-mail campaigns directed at people who had asked not to be contacted.

  • In late 2005, Spitzer investigated Sony BMG Music Entertainment's use of extended copy protection software, which used a special "rootkit" cloaking technique to disguise its presence on a PC, and is extremely difficult to remove. It was also considered a security risk by many computer experts and was treated as spyware by many security vendors. After weeks of unrelenting criticism over its use of the software, Sony eventually announced plans to pull XCP CDs from store shelves and launched a program to allow its customers to exchange their music for CDs that did not have the copy-protection software installed. Meanwhile, columnist Scott Bradner predicted at the time that Sony's digital rights management settlement would help usher Spitzer into the governor's mansion.

  • In light of high profile data breaches, New York in 2005 pushed through a law requiring companies to notify their customers whenever private information has been compromised. The state's Information Security Breach and Notification Act required businesses and state agencies to inform New York residents "whose unencrypted personal information may have been acquired by an unauthorized person," according to the text of the legislation.

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