The FTC said Tuesday that it cannot stop computer makers from selling computers that inject ads into webpages to US consumers. The statement covers Lenovo’s practice of having sold computers pre-installed with the so-called VisualDiscovery adware developed by a company called Superfish. This adware, which was installed on computers without consumers’ knowledge, hijacked encrypted Web sessions that made users vulnerable to HTTPS man-in-the-middle attacks and shared user browsing data with third parties.
In a Tuesday court settlement with Lenovo, the FTC said the Chinese hardware maker, or any computer company for that matter, was free to sell computers with the adware made from a company called Superfish—as long as consumers consented before it was downloaded on the machine.
“As part of the settlement with the FTC, Lenovo is prohibited from misrepresenting any features of software preloaded on laptops that will inject advertising into consumers’ Internet browsing sessions or transmit sensitive consumer information to third parties. The company must also get consumers’ affirmative consent before pre-installing this type of software,” the FTC announced.