RealTime IT News

House Revives Anti-Spyware Bill

U.S. Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) wasted little time this week in re-introducing her anti-spyware legislation, filing the bill on the first day of the new 109th Congress.

In October, Bono's Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act (SPY ACT) passed the House on a 399-1 vote but failed to gain approval in the Senate.

The bill prohibits unfair or deceptive practices related to spyware and requires an opt-in notice and consent regime for legal software that collects personally identifiable information from consumers. Among the spyware practices prohibited by the legislation include phishing, keystroke logging, home page hijacking and ads that can't be closed except by shutting down a computer. Violators could face civil penalties of up to $3 million.

"The SPY ACT was introduced because we feel that consumers have the right to know and be protected when they are downloading software that has the ability to collect and transmit personal information," Bono said in a statement. "From its original introduction, the [bill] has evolved through a tremendously collaborative bipartisan effort to what we feel is strong and sound legislation."

Although the House overwhelmingly endorsed the bill in October, the measure must go through the entire legislative process again in the new Congress. Bono spokeswoman Kimberly Pencille said full hearings might be avoided if the House Energy and Commerce Committee decides to schedule just a vote on the bill.

"It's the exact same bill. We had a phenomenal turnout in the House for it and with [Energy and Commerce] Chairman [Joe] Barton as an original co-sponsor, we hope it will swiftly pass through the House."

Bono's bill permits computer software providers to interact with a user's computer without notice and consent to determine whether the user is authorized to use the software.

Network monitoring is also exempted from the provisions of the notice and consent requirements of the bill to the extent that the monitoring is for network or security purposes, diagnostics, technical support or repair, or the detection or prevention of fraudulent activities. Cookies are also exempted if they are solely used to allow the user to access a Web site.

With those provisions in place, The Business Software Alliance, Dell , eBay , Microsoft , Time Warner , Yahoo and Earthlink all endorsed the original legislation.

In addition to Bono's SPY ACT, the House also in October passed a second anti-spyware bill known as the I-SPY ACT, which provides for criminal penalties for many of the civil violations in the SPY ACT.

"We have received a tremendous amount of support for the SPY ACT and are confident that this year we will see a spyware bill in the law books," Bono said.