DTV Primer

Chris Llana, Editor



Senate Considers Spyware Legislation

October 5, 2005

Okay, so this isn't a digital TV story, but if you're looking at this, you use a computer to browse the internet. And you know, there really should be a law against people planting spyware on your computer!

On Wednesday, October 5, the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Trade, Tourism, and Economic Development held a hearing on the growing problem of spyware, the Federal Trade Commission's jurisdiction and enforcement in this area, and its recommendations.

Subcommittee Chairman Gordon Smith's (R -Ore.) opening statement gave me no hope that Congress is going to do anything about the problem.

For example, Smith stated:

"Although spyware has been used for many deceitful purposes, including theft of personal information, the technology behind it is being used towards legitimate ends as well. I strongly believe that a total ban of an entire category of technology or product can have many unintended and serious consequences. If the definition of spyware becomes too broad, legislation adopted in haste might not take into account the evolution of future technologies, and in turn, it could stifle innovation. I believe we must limit the abusive and deceitful practices while allowing industry the ability to build-on and improve existing technologies."

And further:

"We need to address the most egregious activities and behaviors online without placing unnecessary restrictions on the entire technology industry."

Senator Burns' (R-MT) statement similarly equivocated, reflecting an apparent sympathy for some segments of the technology industry who want to be able to continue their access to consumers' computers for monetary gain.

The primary witness was Deborah Majoras -- Chairman, Federal Trade Commission. Her written testimony points up the currently weak and ineffective government action against spyware.