THE MAGAZINE

I Spy an End to Spyware

By Peter Piazza

New legislation.

Two bills that would curtail spyware passed the House of Representatives just before members adjourned to campaign for reelection. H.R. 2929, sponsored by Mary Bono (R-CA), criminalizes actions such as the "hijacking" of a browser, modifying bookmarks or a browser's start page, and installing any type of software program that would spy on a user's sessions. It would prohibit keystroke loggers, and make it illegal to use a "zombie" computer to damage another computer.

The bill, known as "Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act" or the "SPY Act," would take effect next October. It provides for fines that range as high as $3 million per violation, to be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

The second bill, introduced by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Lamar Smith (R-TX), is known as the "Internet Spyware (I-Spy) Prevention Act" (H.R. 4661). It was passed the following day. It differs from Bono's bill particularly in that it imposes not just fines but also prison sentences on offenders, with sentences of up to five years possible.

Goodlatte offered concerns in a written statement that the SPY Act was too broad and sweeping, "and would result in the regulation and penalization of those legitimate software companies that are actually trying to play by the rules."

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