April 13, 2004 3:37 PM PDT

Adware maker challenges Utah anti-spyware law

Related Stories

Gator mutation Claria files for IPO

April 8, 2004

States join spyware battle

March 4, 2004

Pop-up seller loses round in court

January 5, 2004
Online advertising software maker WhenU is challenging the nation's first anti-spyware statute, charging that the Utah law set to take effect next month is unconstitutional.

WhenU filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction this week in the Third Judicial District Court in Salt Lake County, Utah. It charges that Utah's recently enacted Spyware Control Act violates free-speech guarantees and could unfairly harm its business. WhenU's software lets advertisers deliver pop-up and pop-under advertising to computers connected to the Internet.

"In addition to seeking a declaration, WhenU has asked the court for an injunction prohibiting the implementation and enforcement of the act prior to its effective date" on May 3, the company said in a statement. "Alternatively, WhenU has sought damages from Utah on the grounds that the act constitutes an unconstitutional taking of WhenU's property in violation of the Utah Constitution."

Utah is the first state to pass a law regulating spyware and other advertising software. "Spyware" and "adware" are rarely clearly defined, but typically refer to software that tracks computer users' actions online or uses a computer's resources to pop up advertisements or other messages. Many of these programs are bundled quietly with other pieces of software and are sometimes difficult or impossible to find and uninstall. WhenU said its software can only be installed after people agree to accept terms of service that explicitly describe all of its practices.

Regardless of consent, the Utah bill bars companies from installing software that reports its users' online actions, sends any personal data to other companies, or pops up advertisements without permission. It contains some loopholes: Advertisements served by ordinary HTML or JavaScript are exempted, as are the ordinary "cookies" often used to help personalize Web pages.

The bill also bars "context based" tools from triggering unrelated advertisements based on visiting Web sites on a certain topic, a concern that arose from a problem reported by a local contact lens direct marketer.

That has caused worry among some Internet businesses, which are concerned that state laws may unintentionally hamper some means of doing legitimate business on the Net. The Internet Alliance, a trade organization that includes America Online, eBay and Microsoft, has opposed anti-spyware legislation.

Last month, 1-800-Contacts filed the first lawsuit under the Utah law, charging that its competitor Coastal Contacts had used WhenU and other adware to deliver ads that infringe on its copyrights and trademarks.

The law has drawn the attention of other Internet advertisers. WhenU rival Claria, formerly known as Gator, referred to potential threats to its business posed by Utah's anti-spyware law in a recent securities filing announcing plans for an initial public offering.

"A recently enacted statute in Utah will, upon coming into effect on May 3, 2004, prohibit us from providing our products and services in that state," according to Claria's S-1 document.

CNET News.com's John Borland contributed to this report.

10 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Spyware is never legitimate...
...if it were, somebody like my father could actually uninstall it
on his own, and it wouldn't take someone like me two hours to
clean his computer every two months because someone wasted
sperm creating the people who invented and pay to use spyware.
Posted by jfbiii (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Spyware is never legitimate...
...if it were, somebody like my father could actually uninstall it
on his own, and it wouldn't take someone like me two hours to
clean his computer every two months because someone wasted
sperm creating the people who invented and pay to use spyware.
Posted by jfbiii (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where do we draw the line with spyware?
When someone comes into your house without permission its called trespassing. Why isnt it illegal to keep people out of your computer too? This will not stop until we throw some ceos in jail or fine them to the point they cannot afford to effect peoples lives with these types of advertisements. When do we say enough is enough?
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
affect peoples lives
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/peugeot_partner_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/peugeot_partner_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
Where do we draw the line with spyware?
When someone comes into your house without permission its called trespassing. Why isnt it illegal to keep people out of your computer too? This will not stop until we throw some ceos in jail or fine them to the point they cannot afford to effect peoples lives with these types of advertisements. When do we say enough is enough?
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
affect peoples lives
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/peugeot_partner_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/peugeot_partner_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
A big pain in the A
Pop ups remind me of another annoying group of cry babies, tele-marketing. I have never met anyone who doesn't think these terrorist factions are a pain in the ass. I listen to thier pitiful cries of how thier rights are being taken away. What about MY RIGHTS? I APPLAUD
THE STATE OF UTAH.
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A big pain in the A
Pop ups remind me of another annoying group of cry babies, tele-marketing. I have never met anyone who doesn't think these terrorist factions are a pain in the ass. I listen to thier pitiful cries of how thier rights are being taken away. What about MY RIGHTS? I APPLAUD
THE STATE OF UTAH.
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lawsuit against Utah
"What have 49 other states are not good enough. you must have all 50. I mean come on you win some you lose some,
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lawsuit against Utah
"What have 49 other states are not good enough. you must have all 50. I mean come on you win some you lose some,
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.