May 25, 2005, 12:00 AM

Spyware bills clear first hurdles and win approval in U.S. House

Two proposals regulating the installation and use of spyware pass the House and head for the Senate. The DMA seeks refinements that protect consumers’ rights while not impeding legitimate technologies.

The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed two bills that seek to place limits on how spyware can be installed and used on consumers` computers.

Both HR 744 and HR 29 have provisions that outlaw fraud, prohibit spyware that repeatedly cascades ads or content, redirects users seeking one site to another, and is not possible to uninstall from computers. HR 29 also has provisions that require users’ permission before installing software that collects personally identifiable information intended for use in targeted advertising.

The bills, which now move to the U.S. Senate, represent an important first step in protecting both consumers and online businesses, but they require more work, according the Direct Marketers Association, which has been working with House members and staff on developing the proposed legislation.

“We are pleased that the House has taken this positive step toward a national standard that will protect consumers from unwanted and potentially damaging or illegal spyware,” says Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president for government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association. Specifically, the group believes consumers have the right to be notified when software is installed on their computers, must be given a simple way to remove such software, and should not be exposed to software that collects personally identifiable information such as credit card data from computers without the user’s knowledge.

However, the DMA also seeks language that will not impede legitimate marketing technologies, according to Cerasale. “We will remain engaged with members of Congress, our own membership, and other stakeholders as the House and Senate move toward a final bill,” he adds.

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