Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Two Spyware Bills Clear House of Representatives

This posting was written by Stephen K. Cooper, CCH Washington Correspondent.

In an attempt to block unwanted computer software from stealing the personal information of users, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed two pieces of legislation intended to combat the use of spyware.


On May 22, the House passed the The Internet Spyware (I-SPY) Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1525), which would enhance criminal sanctions for using spyware to commit a crime, such as identity theft. The I-SPY Act would make it a criminal offense, carrying a prison term of up to five years, to cause a computer program or code to be copied onto a computer in furtherance of a federal crime.

H.R. 1525 "targets the worst forms of spyware without unduly burdening technological innovation," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.), the bill's sponsor. The measure seeks to "eliminate criminal behavior without criminalizing technology," Rep. Lofgren added.

Specifically, the I-SPY Act would prohibit causing a computer program or code to be copied onto the protected computer and intentionally using that program or code (1) in furtherance of another federal criminal offense, (2) to obtain or transmit personal information with intent to defraud or injure a person or cause damage to a protected computer, or (3) to impair the security protection of the computer.

The measure further would authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to spend $10 million per year for the next four years to prosecute purpetrators of spyware, fraudulent phishing, and pharming schemes.


On June 6, the House passed the proposed Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass (SPY) Act (H.R. 964). The proposal would protect computer users from unknowingly transmitting personal information through spyware.

Sponsored by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Mary Bono (R-Cal.), the legislation would require that Internet users be warned about spyware and that users provide affirmative consent when software programs attempt installation on their computers. Consumers would be given the ability to easily disable any spyware programs on their computers.

Rep. Bono remarked that federal legislation is necessary because online companies currently fact a patchwork of state anti-spyware statutes. "There needs to be legal uniformity," she said. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) believes that the legislation would help consumers know if their personal information is being shared.

"My computer and my personal information are my properly," he said. "This legislation will ensure I have control over both."

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