MSPs Cheer Anti-Spyware Bill That Preserves Their Way Of Work

The bill, SB 1436, quashes a legislative effort to limit MSPs and solution providers offering managed services in a blanket attempt to curtail spyware and all kinds of network monitoring.

Oli Thordarson, CEO of Alvaka Networks and a key spokesperson in the effort to exclude MSPs from the California legislation, said the bill effectively separates the malicious nature of spyware from the helpful intentions of MSPs.

"It is more important to prevent the objectionable activities associated with spyware over providing notice to consumers," said Thordarson. "In the end it will be technology and service providers that most effectively combat this scourge, not consumer notices."

The bill, commonly called the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act, originally called for a $1,000 fine for installing spyware on a computer in California without notifying the recipient. It also allowed consumers to sue violators for damages under laws governing unfair business practices.

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After intense lobbying earlier this year by members of the Global MSP Network (GMN), bill sponsor Sen. Kevin Murray agreed to include language that further defined "consumer" as "any individual who seeks or acquires, by purchase or lease, any goods, services, money or credit for personal, family or household purposes," thereby exempting MSPs from coming under attack.

Thordarson, who also heads the GMN, was delighted at the news of the 68-0 vote in favor of the revised bill, deeming it a "very important" milestone in the fight to protect the MSP industry as efforts to limit spyware increase.

Other MSP advocates also sounded off on what they consider a "historic day" in their industry. Mike Backers, president and CEO of Altoria Solutions, Cincinnati, Ohio, said the California bill should show law-makers across the country that the key to anti-spyware legislation lies in the definitions.

"States should take some more time to consider the monitoring of 'devices' rather than 'end users,'" he said. "It should be made very clear through the definitions of the legislation that the owners of the intellectual property, devices and gateways to Internet access should have the rights to protect their corporate assets."

Celia Weaver, vice president of the MSPAlliance in Chico, Calif., agreed, noting that the biggest challenge now will be raising MSP awareness about the dangers of anti-spyware bills in their states.

"Had the language of SB 1436 not been amended, it would have crippled the MSP industry," she said. "What I would ask [MSPs in other states]: 'Is there an SB 1436 pending in your state?'"

Weaver's question is timely. In Utah earlier this summer, adware maker WhenU challenged a recently passed anti-spyware law , alleging that the statute unconstitutionally limits companies' rights to commercial speech. Similar cases are popping up elsewhere as well, including states such as Colorado, Michigan and New York.

Now that it has passed the California Assembly, SB 1436 goes to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk for final approval. Steve Davis, vice president of managed network services at Hughes-Calihan Managed Service, Phoenix, Ariz., said he is hopeful the California decision will have a positive impact on other states.

"While this bill directly affects California today, the change in the bill's verbiage may set a precedent for limiting [all MSP's] liability [when remotely] monitoring and managing networks," he said.