April 24, 2007

LEGALIZING SPYWARE?

Here we go again. Congress has decided it needs to protect us from spyware, but – surprise, surprise – the bill they are most seriously considering actually offers no help in that regard. What’s worse, the bill seems designed to make it harder for you to legally go after those who spy on you, particularly if they are doing so to determine if you’re authorized to use a software product. . . .

Let’s sum up. If the Spy Act become law, hardware, software, and network vendors will be granted carte blanche to use spyware themselves to police their customers’ use of their products and services. Incredibly broad exceptions will probably allow even the worst of the adware outfits to operate with legal cover. State attempts to deal with the spyware problem will be pre-empted and enforcement left up almost entirely to the FTC. Gee, what’s not to like in that deal?

If Congress’ approach on this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. It’s basically the same formula Congress adopted four years to deal with spam. As we know, the dreadful Can Spam Act of 2003 proved to be the “Yes, You Can Spam Act.” If wiser heads in Congress don’t prevail – and who knows if there are any – I fear the Spy Act of 2007 will just prove to be the “Vendors Can Spy Act.”

The bill is HR 964.

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