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House Passes Anti-Spyware Bills

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a pair of anti-spyware bills and sent them on to face their toughest challenge: the Senate.

The House passed Rep. Mary Bono's (R-Calif.) Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act, dubbed the SPY Act, by a vote of 393-4, while the second bill, the Internet Spyware Prevention Act (I-SPY), passed 395-1.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a libertarian-leaning Republican, was the only member to vote against both bills, not surprising since his Web site touts that he "never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution." The Founding Fathers weren't prescient enough to forecast spyware.

Bono's bill, which harks back to 2004 and was re-introduced this session, would require any software to give clear notice before it installs, and would forbid such spyware/adware practices as keystroke logging, persistent pop-up ads, and computer hijacking. Fines for violations could be as high as $3 million.

I-SPY, on the other hand, would criminalize spyware tactics, with possible jail terms as long as five years. It also authorizes $10 million to the Department of Justice to combat spyware and phishing scams.

"Spyware makes spam look like child's play and is one of the key reasons why we have an identity theft epidemic in this country," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), one of the three co-sponsors of the bill. "[I-SPY] is unique because it focuses on behavior, not technology, and it targets the worst forms of spyware without unduly burdening technological innovation."

With the votes in the House, the action moves to the other side of the Hill. Although the Senate has pondered anti-spyware legislation in the past, and has one bill, the Software Principles Yielding Better Levels of Consumer Knowledge Act (SPYBLOCK)on the table, it's far behind the House on the issue.

Last year, the House passed anti-spyware legislation, but it failed to gather support in the Senate

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