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FTC approves settlement with Lenovo over privacy charges

FTC approves settlement with Lenovo over privacy charges
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday approved a settlement with computer manufacturer Lenovo over charges that it had violated user privacy with software that came preloaded on its computers.

The commission voted 2-0 to approve the settlement it reached in September with the company.

“Lenovo compromised consumers’ privacy when it preloaded software that could access consumers’ sensitive information without adequate notice or consent to its use,” acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen said in a statement at the time. “This conduct is even more serious because the software compromised online security protections that consumers rely on.”

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Between August 2014 and February 2015, Lenovo laptops came preloaded with software called VisualDiscovery, a program developed by the now-defunct advertising company Superfish. The FTC found that VisualDiscovery delivered pop-up ads from its retail partners to consumers while accessing their sensitive personal information, like Social Security numbers and financial data.

Lenovo said in a statement that it's aware that the settlement was approved Tuesday. In September the company pointed users toward a guide on how to remove the software. In a statement at the time, it said it stopped pre-installing the program on devices after questions were raised about privacy violations.

“While Lenovo disagrees with allegations contained in these complaints, we are pleased to bring this matter to a close after 2-1/2 years,” the company said in the statement.

“To date, we are not aware of any actual instances of a third party exploiting the vulnerabilities to gain access to a user’s communications.”

The settlement does not include a fine but requires Lenovo to develop a tougher security program and to obtain consumer permission before running pre-installed software on its laptops. It also must submit to regular third-party audits.