Legislative response

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2004-06-28 Print this article Print

While experts agree that technology will be the primary means of combating spyware, there is a growing consensus that legislation can help.

After undergoing several evolutions, a bill introduced last year by Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., would require information collection programs to display a conspicuous notice and obtain the users consent before installation. Violators could be fined up to $3 million for collecting personal data, diverting browsers or sending some pop-up ads to users without consent.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
The measure would also require the ability to disable or remove the program.

Lawmakers are trying to crack down on malicious spyware and simultaneously avoid inadvertently threatening programs that users want, such as automatic anti-virus updates, which is what the IT industry feared Bonos original bill would do. Bono, who has led the anti-spyware effort in Congress, praised the revised provisions as representing a cooperative effort to protect users.

"We are one step closer to restoring safety, confidence and control to consumers when using their own computers," Bono said.

The industry is continuing to lobby to ensure that any new law does not ensnare programs installed by legitimate businesses that have relationships with users, such as anti-virus protection programs.

Next page: Legislating technology vs. bad behavior.


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