Connecticut resident Julie Amero now has a criminal record and will lose her teaching license, thanks to an infected computer.
In 2004, at the height of the spyware/adware problem, Amero was working as a substitute teacher in Norwalk, Conn. when a computer she was using suddenly started spewing pornographic pop-ups. She was unable to stop these images from displaying. Forensics analysis has since definitively shown that the machine was infected with adware/spyware.
But some Web-illiterate prosecutor brought charges against Amero for exposing children to pornography. And jurors, who apparently weren't familiar with spyware, convicted her last year.
Since then a judge overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial. But Amero didn't want to risk another trial and the prosecutor's office refused to withdraw this case, even though the case had long since turned into an embarrassment for the authorities. So Amero took a guilty plea to disorderly conduct, and will surrender her teacher's license, to make this incident go away.
Meantime, much has changed in the adware/spyware space since 2004, when unwanted installations were proliferating. Some of the most notorious players -- including Direct Revenue and Gator -- have folded. Another big adware company, Zango, was fined $3 million by the Federal Trade Commission and promised to better police affiliates. None of those companies were implicated in the Amero situation. But all of them, not to mention the countless smaller ones, have at one time or another been accused of using questionable installation methods.
For Amero, it's beyond unfortunate that she was victimized first by a malware program that she couldn't shut down, then again by a criminal justice system that doesn't appear to understand the Internet.