Thursday, April 19, 2007

House panel approves anti-spyware bill

The Energy and Commerce committee of the US House of Representatives passed a bill that they claim would help protect consumers from Spyware.

Yeah, right. This is the US House of Representatives. They are here to protect us!

"Protecting Internet users from dangerous programs that steal consumers' identities, invade their software or just plain harass them is a top priority," said Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, chairman of the full committee.

The bill would require software distributors and advertisers to clearly notify and obtain consent from consumers before their programs can be loaded onto a computer. Violators could be fined up to $3 million for each unfair or deceptive act.

What is unsaid, of course, is exactly how Representative Dingell plans to apprehend the purveyors of spyware, and how he is going to fine some company operating out of Gibraltar?

Don't get me wrong, spyware is evil and the companies that produce it need to be put out of business. The inviduals who write this stuff need to have their nether regions removed by force. Ask me how I really feel about this. Still, I am inherently suspicious of any legistion that is supported by Dingell.

A look at the committee press release is equally scary based on some of the language they use:

Today, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection approved H.R. 964, the “Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act”, by voice vote in its first bill markup of the 110th Congress. The bill, also known as the Spy Act, is designed to protect consumers from harmful and intrusive programs known as “spyware” that can harvest personal data, damage computer software and disrupt Web usage.

If passed, the Spy Act will shield Internet users from under-the-radar spyware programs that can secretly invade their computers and monitor their online activity. Some of these programs steal personally identifiable information, such as addresses, telephone numbers or even credit card account information. Other programs send repeated intrusive and aggressive advertisements, require consumers to download software or redirect users to Web pages against their will.

“An informed consumer is a powerful consumer. Too often, the average citizen is unaware of the litany of scams and con-jobs that infest the marketplace. We must stop the scourge of identity theft and related abuse. The Spy Act is a pivotal first step,” said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. “Data breaches continue at a rapid pace and constitute a major threat to consumers. Next month the subcommittee will examine the astonishing breach at TJX to key up this issue. We must pass comprehensive data security legislation this year.”
The TJX breach is the security failure at the parent company of retailer TJ Maxx (and others) in which a substantial number of debit and credit card numbers were compromised. Of course, when the congresscritters fail to mention is that the comany should not have been storing that information in the first place -- but we won't go there now.


Cybernest said...

I'm sure we would all applaud any attempts to regulate and / or try to control these issues.

However, singling out Gibraltar in your post they way you do if frankly very unfair. I realise the point you are trying to make in the sense of the difficulties of jurisdiction that the new bill might come up against... but the purveyors and producers of these type of issues are more likely to come from the USA and Eastern Europe in my experience... and certainly the case in most instances I am aware of.

Gibraltar, whilst being a major centre of offshore companies, is very well regulated and highly unlikely to be anywhere at the top end of any list from where these issues might emanate or need to be controlled!

A very unfair and uninformed post I'm afraid!

Gibraltar News Online:

Gunner said...

Of course, the virtual nest of online casinos and pharmacies that make Gibraltar their home only lend to the nation's credibility as a place for high-integrity e-commerce.