Monday, April 24, 2006

Spyware companies cleaning up their acts when their backs are against the wall

See the link above for an excellent article, "Spy vs. Spy" in the Boston Globe by columnist Hiawatha Bray. He is noting the number of spyware companies trying to clean up their images now that there are anti-spyware laws on the books in several states and bills introduced in Congress, as well as pressure from really annoyed consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been very active in attacking adware and spyware producers, and a great help to consumers. See the comments of Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of the FTC on February 9, 2006 here. She details three major principles illustrated in FTC cases against spyware producers:

The underlying basic principle is that the consumer owns his or her own computer, and that highjacking the use of it through installing spyware, adware or spam is theft.

1) The first principle is the basic unfairness of distributing exploitative software such as that which highjacks the home page to incessantly display ads through "drive-by" downloads when a computer user visits a website and clicks on an X to close a box or downloads "free" music.

2) The second principle is burying key information in the user license at the very end does not create an informed agreement by the user.

3) The third principle is the unfairness of installing software on the user's computer without also providing clear and accessible uninstall instructions that work.

4) The fourth principle is that we are all in this together, and all have a responsibility to make the system work.

The speech is very good in that it includes citations to FTC cases against spyware and adware providers and other documents.


Essay from the FTC in support of the U.S. Safe Web Act, July, 20005 with a hypothetical showing how it would help the FTC prosecute spyware/adware malefactors.


Spyware: Policy and Background Issues for Congress, a Congressional Research Service Report (excellent resource updated to January 31, 2006) Link to pdf


Press release about Elliot Spitzer, Attorney General of New York suing spyware company: link


Utah Spyware Control Act U.C.A. 1953 § 13-40-101, et seq.

(this is the bill which became the Utah Spyware Control Act)


California Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act.
West's Ann.Cal.Bus. & Prof.Code § 22947, et seq.


Arizona Computer Spyware
A.R.S. T. 44, Ch. 30, et seq.

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