October 5, 2004 6:24 PM PDT

House approves spyware legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives voted late Tuesday to restrict some of the most deceptive forms of spyware.

By a 399-1 vote, House members approved legislation prohibiting "taking control" of a computer, surreptitiously modifying a Web browser's home page, or disabling antivirus software without proper authorization.

The Spy Act would also create a complicated set of rules governing software capable of transmitting information across the Internet. It would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to police violations of the law and to levy fines of up to $3 million in the most pernicious cases.

"The rapid proliferation of spyware has become a common menace to computer users," said Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., one of the architects of the measure. "The passage of the Spy Act today is a victory for consumers, as they are one step closer to taking back control of their own PCs."

During the floor discussion, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., warned that Americans' computers are "no longer their own and they can't figure out why."

Some businesses had opposed earlier versions of the Spy Act, saying that though they were against spyware, the bill was so broadly drafted it could imperil legitimate software as well. The Energy and Commerce Committee responded on Monday by making some last-minute changes before the vote.

A similar bill is pending in the Senate. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to key senators on Sept. 21 saying their proposal was "extremely overbroad" and could "stifle e-commerce and open up legitimate businesses to immense legal liabilities."

EarthLink said Wednesday that a scan of 3 million computer systems over nine months found 83 million instances of spyware. Spyware programs hide in PCs and secretly monitor user activity. Typically, spyware arrives bundled with freeware or shareware, or through e-mail or instant messages. The programs are difficult to remove and may cause computers to run slowly or even crash.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a vocal libertarian who frequently says the federal government should not be policing the Internet, was the lone dissenter.

5 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
spyware legislation
It's about time that someone did something about unauthorized spyware that loads secretly on a person's PC. I am so tired of having to scan my registry and taking the chance of crashing it once a week. The p*** sites that piggyback in on legitimate surfing sites is out of control. Spyware removers are good but can't keep up with the proliferation of these idiots who can't mind their own business.
Posted by stephan6969 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Reality Check
These advertising firms say that they're so worried about legitimate advertising being hurt. I'm wondering how many people actually heed the advertising they come across on the Internet. As has been stated in many of these spyware and adware articles, most people just ignore the stuff. Most people are influenced by TV and their own research. With that said, their Internet marketing schemes can't possibly be pulling in much money and would seem to be a waste of resources such as time and money. There must be some other reason that they're doing it then. One thing that goes on is that "data miners" are being placed on computers. As many of you know, all that these programs do is gather information about what is done on your machine. They then sell this information to companies that are buying it. There's one way that the money is being made. I'm sure there are many others.
Now, my problem isn't with the advertisements or with the data mining. I don't do anything illegal on my machine and I could care less if they know where I've been on the Internet. I don't even mind having to close a pop-up in order to keep browsing. My problem is that these companies are engaging in some pretty tricky tactics in order to force this stuff on people. For example, the window that pops up and says something like "You PC is not protected, are you interested in securing your PC?" and then gives you a YES and a NO box. It doesn't mantter which box you click, they will both take you to the same place! They even go so far as to make it look like a Windows messege box. This doesn't fool the trained eye, but the common user will not notice. I've talked to many people who don't understand how things got on their machine, and this is one of the ways that it happens. I also don't appreciate their nifty programs changing my computer's configuration and even causing damage. When my default browser opens to some sex site and can NOT be changed from that site as the home page, that causes problems and has stripped away a small piece of my freedom. After spending thousands of dollars on a machine, who are they to tell me what my home page should be. Also, some of these configuration changes are made in the registry. Changes to the registry can be very serious. The advertisers and spyware makes changes, and if that's not bad enough, some one has to go in and make changes to correct the problems. Not a fun thought. The worst one yet completely crashed my hard drive and I lost everything. I went to ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS and was uninstalling anything that I was certain was not installed by me. I got to the third or fourth one and once I started uninstalling, my computer rebooted. That was it, the machine never completed a boot after that.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
And then what?
The same thing happened to me... twice in two years. Fortunately for me, I was able to recover from the second crash without losing any important documents or programs. My question, however, is thus: Whereas this nonsense has been deemed wrong and illegal (punishable, even.. yippie), what now? How many of us really believe that this is a realistic step towards thwarting these people? I think we saw how successful similar efforts are in the case of anti-telemarketing projects of recent years. A few suggestions?
1) Tobacco-style lawsuits - I want my two cents back, don't you?
2) Cyber vigilantes - Call me bitter, but I would pay someone to trace the software that crashed my PCs. For a few dollars more... well, see suggestion (3)..
3) COINTELPRO - Hack into their computers, track them down, and meet the little buggers in a dark alley.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Isn't it illegal already, Why not.
When teen hackers planted spy programs in commercial and academic computers it was classed as a crime. Past judgements determined that information had value and that unauthorised copying of that information constituted theft. In the absence of specific laws theft of computer time has been prosecuted as "abstraction of electricity".

These companies are using deception and also using security holes. Using a security hole to get a program installed is electronic breaking and entry.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
spyware legislation
In my opinion anyone who inflicts destructive damage on a person's pc should be proscecuted. Trojans and other malicious actions should be traceable back to the owner and the owner should be fined and sent to jail.
Posted by r0isp (1 comment )
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.