House Passes Anti-spyware Bill, Senate Quiet on Issue

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Internet Spyware (I-Spy) Prevention Act on Tuesday. However, there is no equivalent Senate Bill, according to ITWire.

There are stiff penalties in the House Bill if spyware is used to commit another Federal criminal offense. Penalties are less severe for the simple collection of some personal information.

Republican co-sponsor Bob Goodlatte said "The I-SPY Prevention Act is a targeted approach that protects consumers by imposing stiff penalties on the truly bad actors, while protecting the ability of legitimate companies to develop new and exciting products and services online for consumers."

However, the bill seems less than optimal. There are limits on what is defined as personal information. And, for example, the collection of name and password information for other than banking and credit card access is not prohibited. Predictably, the bill exempts law enforcement agencies from penalties for spying on computers.

There is no equivalent legislation before the Senate, so, as in past attempts with similar legislation, the Bill cannot become law.

In 2003, Congress has passed the CAN-SPAM Act without much effect. It may be awhile before both Houses can agree on a spyware bill without unintended consequences, is well conceived and written, and can be realistically effective.