US Senate panel passes bill to outlaw spyware

A U.S. Senate committee has approved a bill that would outlaw the practice of remotely installing software that collects a computer users’ personal information without consent.

In addition to prohibiting spyware, the Spyblock (Software Principles Yielding Better Levels of Consumer Knowledge) Act would also outlaw the installation of adware programs without a computer user’s permission. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the bill Thursday.

Spyblock, sponsored by Senator Conrad Burns, a Montana Republican, would prohibit hackers from remotely taking over a computer and prohibit programs that hijack Web browsers. The bill would protect antispyware software vendors from being sued by companies whose software they block.

“I am pleased that a majority of the committee agrees with me that Congress must act to protect the right of consumers to know when potentially dangerous Spyware is being downloaded onto their computers,” Burns said in a statement.

“As the Spyblock Act moves forward to the Senate floor, I hope we can continue making it a stronger bill by making sure the private sector has all the right tools it needs to successfully slow the spread of malicious spyware.”

The Spyblock Act now moves to the full Senate for consideration. The U.S. House of Representatives passed two antispyware bills in October 2004 and again in May, but the Senate has so far failed to act on spyware legislation.

The Spyblock Act would allow the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to seek civil penalties against spyware and adware distributors.

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