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Democracy and Technology Blog Spyware legislation advances in Senate

The Senate Commerce Committee approved a modified version of S. 687, a bill sponsored by Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) which would target a variety of malicious practices that include: computer hijacking, spam zombies, endless loop pop-up advertisements and fraudulent software installation. A similar measure (H.R. 29) introduced by Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA) and Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY) has passed the House. The House has also approved H.R. 744, by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), which addresses criminal penalties and prosecutorial tools related to spyware.
Spyware legislation is beneficial because it will promote consumer awareness and assist law enforcement. But technological solutions to the problem may ultimately prove more important. The industry is working on a number of solutions and requires flexibility to respond to evolving challenges. Lawmakers in both the Senate and House appear to be fully conscious of the danger of unintended consequences from legislating in this area. If the legislation’s aims and means are too expansive or are not described with optimal clarity, for example, not only could it kill promising technological solutions but it could also ensnare legitimate applications and services that will make the use of computers more simple and secure for ordinary Americans.

Hance Haney

Senior Fellow, Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney is Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.