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House Passes Tough Computer Anti-Spyware Bill
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PostPost subject: House Passes Tough Computer Anti-Spyware Bill
Posted: Thu Oct 07, 2004 4:00 am
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to crack down on deceptive "spyware" that hides in users' computers and secretly monitors their activities.

By a vote of 399 to 1, the House moved to outlaw a range of aggressive advertising and surveillance activities that have outraged consumers over the past two years.

Spyware can sap computing power, crash machines and bury users under a blizzard of unwanted ads. It can capture passwords, credit-card numbers and other sensitive data.

Spyware can end up on users' computers when they become infected by a computer virus or download games or other free programs off the Internet.

Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton said computers used by his Energy and Commerce Committee were found to have been carrying roughly 60 different spyware programs.

The bill approved by the House would require software makers to get consumers' permission before loading programs on their machines that can collect information about them.

It would also prohibit a number of practices often associated with spyware, such as reprograming the start page on a user's Web browser, logging keystrokes to capture passwords and other sensitive data, and launching pop-up ads that can't be closed without shutting down the computer.

Violators could face millions of dollars in fines.

"I am confident we have drafted a bill that protects consumers without impeding the growth of technology," said California Republican Rep. Mary Bono, the bill's sponsor.

Congress must settle minor differences with other anti-spyware bills before any of them can become law.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on an anti-spyware bill backed by members of the Judiciary Committee that would stipulate jail time for violators.

Negotiators did not have time to combine the two measures into one bill, a spokesman for the Judiciary Committee said.
Barton said at a press conference that House lawmakers would work to combine those two bills with one working its way through the Senate, hopefully by the time both Houses recess for the election at the end of the week.

The fact that the issue is relatively noncontroversial is a good sign, he said.

"Where there's a bipartisan will, we can do things," he said. (Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell)

? Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.
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