Hey, guys! Guess what’s happened today! Or really, a few days ago–but I digress. Lenovo is in deep, deep water because the Federal Trade Commission just announced that it settled with Lenovo over three privacy violations! Almost a million Lenovo laptops that were sold between August 2014 and June 2015 came pre-installed with VisualDiscovery, a program made by this California-based firm you may have heard of called SuperFish. The program acted as a gate for anyone trying to access a browser, which means they had access to all your browsing history and possibly even your private information!
I bought a Lenovo Y40-80 in March 2014, so it looks like I’m still safe, but now I’m feeling kind of relieved that it’s broken because I won’t have to deal with the risk of having frightening spyware on my computer.
Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting chairman of the FTC, said, “Imagine the online equivalent of someone, without your knowledge, intercepting your mail, opening it, reading it, resealing it and putting it back in your mailbox. That’s what we allege the software did.”
Her quote really puts the danger into perspective: imagine if someone did that to you! That’s an incredible breach of privacy that goes against everything we’re fighting for, and personally, I would never want anyone trying to access my email or browsing info unless I gave them explicit permission to do so! (And for the record, I would never do that). You know we’re all waged in a war against corporations for net neutrality and consumer protection, which is why we’ve always gotten so angry in the past when we found out that certain organizations were spying on us or trying to use our data against us.
Apparently, the software had eyes on user’s log-in credentials, Social Security numbers, and even medical information and e-mails. That’s crazy. That’s like…the Nigerian prince scam gone professional. It’s really shady that Lenovo would just allow that sort of product to be downloaded and shipped out with their computers. Don’t they value their customers?
What happened to Lenovo?
So the FTC actually can’t fine Lenovo yet, but individual states can. And that’s exactly what they’ve done. The attorneys general (basically the attorney working for the state) acted together with the FTC in order to fine the company. The biggest of these was Connecticut, who announced that they’d receive over $250,000 in settlements.
At this stage, the FTC can’t actually levy any sort of fine against Lenovo, but if Lenovo violates the orders the FTC announced, the federal agency can lay down the fine hammer.
However, the attorneys general in 32 states acted alongside the FTC and those states have fined the company. In total, Lenovo will pay out $3.5 million to the 32 states. The leading state in the case was Connecticut, and its attorney general, George Jepsen, announced Tuesday that the state will receive $286,145 in settlement funds.
You can see Lenovo’s official statement here. Part of it reads,
“Today it was announced that Lenovo has reached settlements with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a coalition of thirty-two U.S. states to resolve their concerns related to the third-party “VisualDiscovery” software that Lenovo pre-installed on certain consumer laptop products in late 2014 and early 2015. While Lenovo disagrees with allegations contained in these complaints, we are pleased to bring this matter to a close after 2-1/2 years.”
Honestly, it seems a little bit shady that Lenovo kind of just brushed everything aside. Considering they probably made a ton of money from selling the laptops (some people are even estimating the profit to be as much as a billion dollars), three-and-a-half million is nothing. It makes you wonder: how much money did they make from Superfish for letting that company download the spyware?
This is actually one of the main reasons that ordinary consumers prefer Macs and other Apple options: a lot of Windows come pre-installed with random programs. Most of us know this as “bloatware”, but what about the cool hipsters and old people and authors and designers who don’t really need the customizability and freedom of Windows operating systems? For them, it would make sense to choose Macbooks: after all, MacBooks are notorious for being pretty safe. A lot of people are really angry about the news and have expressed their distrust and disappointment in Lenovo. Honestly, I am too!
Anyways, do any of you guys play on a Lenovo laptop? Have you read the news yet? What do you think about this fiasco? Do you think it’s as big of a deal as I’m making out to be? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!