Politicians press for antispyware law yet again

Politicians press for antispyware law yet again by Anne Broache

I don’t know the current status of this proposed federal legislation. But the article is relevant and the issue is huge.

Among other things, the proposal would make it unlawful to engage in various means of “taking control” of a user’s computer, to collect personally identifiable information through keystroke loggers, and to modify a user’s Internet settings, such as the browser’s home page.

The bill would also broadly prohibit collection of information about users or their behavior without notice and consent, and it prescribes specific notice requirements. Exemptions from the regulations would go to Web cookies, law enforcement and national security activities, and software intended to prevent fraud.

Previous versions of the bill drew support from a number of high-tech companies, including Yahoo, eBay, AOL Time Warner, Dell, Microsoft and EarthLink.

The FTC has also lamented not having the ability to levy large monetary penalties on spyware purveyors. The Spy Act would put in place such an increase, allowing the FTC to seek fines as hefty as $3 million for the most egregious violations.

Obviously technology laws emerge as inappropriate usage emerges. So effective legislation will always trail intrusive technology. But this one has seemed so obvious for so long. If some guy pulls a pickup truck onto my front lawn and dumps a load of garbage, there are laws to prosecute him. But if he does the same thing to my computer’s hard disk, there’s little or nothing we can do.

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