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by Steve Gibson, Gibson Research Corporation  -  2000/10/10

Senator John Edwards Introduces
'Spyware Control Act'

Reported by Brian Krebs , Newsbytes

Sen. Edwards Intro's 'Spyware Control Act' 
By Brian Krebs, Newsbytes
WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A.,
09 Oct 2000, 3:29 PM CST

Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., introduced legislation on Friday that would 
force software manufacturers to notify consumers when their products 
include "spyware," bits of code that surreptitiously transmit 
information about the user's Web surfing habits back to the software 
company.

"I have been closely following the privacy debate for some time now, 
and I am struck by how often I discover new ways in which our privacy 
is being eroded," Edwards said Friday in a speech introducing his 
bill. "Spyware is among the more startling examples of how this 
erosion is occurring."

Under S. 3180, the "Spyware Control and Privacy Protection Act," 
manufacturers that build spyware into their products must give 
consumers clear and conspicuous notice - at the time of installation - 
that the software contains spyware. Such a notice would describe what 
information would be collected and to whom it would be sent. The 
spyware would then be forced to lie dormant unless the consumer 
chooses to enable it.

Edwards' bill comes at a time when many producers of free software - 
called "freeware" - are taking heat for building tiny spyware programs 
into their products. Software manufacturers argue that the programs 
are geared only at improving advertising returns, and many freeware 
titles, including RealDownload, Intuit's Quicken, Netscape's AOL Smart 
Download, and NetZip's Download Demon - now include advertisements 
within their program's window.

Edwards said that in addition to notice and choice, his bill would 
give consumers the benefit of the remaining two "Fair Information 
Practices" endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Access and 
Security. Under S. 3180, software users would have the ability to find 
out what information has been collected about them and to correct any 
errors.

The bill also would force software manufacturers to ensure that the 
information gleaned from spyware products was properly encrypted and 
adequately insulated from malicious hackers.

Edwards said his bill contains some "common sense exceptions" to the 
notice and consent requirements. S. 3180 would exempt spyware used to 
gather information that would only be used to provide technical 
support for the software, or to determine if a given user is a 
licensed user of the product. The notice and choice provisions would 
also be waived for employers using spyware to monitor Internet usage 
by their employees.

S. 3180 also gives users a private right of action to sue a software 
maker that violates its own policy. Under Edwards' bill, consumers 
could seek redress of up to $500,000 per violation.

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Last Edit: Oct 06, 2003 at 13:29 (5,179.81 days ago)Viewed 3 times per day