Media Contact: Heather Wong, 202.225.3072
Washington, DC - Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-16), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-06), and Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) today introduced bipartisan legislation to address the most egregious activities that are conducted via spyware and make those activities criminal offenses. HR 4661, the “Internet Spyware (I-SPY) Prevention Act of 2004,” will be referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Spyware has been defined as “software that aids in gathering information about a person or organization without their knowledge and which may send such information to another entity without the consumer’s consent, or asserts control over a computer without the consumer’s knowledge.” In April, the Federal Trade Commission testified before a House Subcommittee that “spyware appears to be a new and rapidly growing practice that poses a risk of serious harm to consumers.”
"Spyware is quickly becoming one of the biggest threats to consumers on the information superhighway. Among other things, criminals can use spyware to track every keystroke an individual makes, including credit card and social security numbers, “ said Rep. Zoe Lofgren. “This bill is a good starting point to target the worst offenders while allowing legitimate applications to flourish.”
“By imposing criminal penalties on these bad actors, this legislation will help deter the use of spyware, and will thus help protect consumers from these aggressive attacks,” Goodlatte said. “At the same time the legislation leaves the door open for innovative technology development to continue to combat spyware programs.”
The legislation would make the following criminal offenses:
-Further another federal criminal offense (punishable by fine or imprisonment for up to 5 years)
-Intentionally obtain or transmit “personal information” with the intent of injuring or defrauding a person or damaging a computer (punishable by fine or imprisonment for up to 2 years)
-Intentionally impair the security protections of a computer (punishable by fine or imprisonment for up to 2 years)
The legislation includes language to preempt States from creating civil remedies based on violations of this act.
Spyware encompasses several potential risks including the promotion of identity theft by harvesting personal information from consumer’s computers. Additionally, it can adversely affect businesses, as they are forced to sustain costs to block and remove spyware from employees’ computers, in addition to the potential impact on productivity.
"Every day thousands of unsuspecting Americans have their identities hijacked by a new breed of cyber criminals because of spyware. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years - and much of their hard-earned money – trying to restore their good name and credit record, said Rep. Lamar Smith. “This legislation will help prevent bad things from happening to good names. "
There is also a growing concern that persistent computer security vulnerabilities may expose U.S. critical infrastructure and government computer systems to cyber attacks, which would ultimately jeopardize national security and the economy.
“We applaud Representatives Goodlatte, Lofgren and Smith for moving forward on legislation aimed at spyware practices that harm Internet users, and look forward to working with them as it moves ahead,” said Jerry Berman, President of the Center for Democracy and Technology, part of a broad coalition of consumer groups addressing the spyware problem.