California Anti-Spyware Bills Move Forward

Rhett Pardon
SACRAMENTO – A pair of anti-spyware bills in California’s legislature moved forward on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1436, introduced by Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles, was approved by the Senate's Judiciary Committee. The piece of legislation would provide for a $1,000 fine for installing spyware on a computer in the state without giving the recipient notice. The bill will next be considered by the full Senate.

Assembly Bill 2787, introduced by Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Roseville, gained approval from the Assembly's Judiciary Committee. The bill would prohibit hijacking, surreptitious surveillance and inhibiting termination of a program. It will face the full Assembly before the end of May.

The issue of spyware, which is software that is employed unbeknownst to users, has been a hot topic for both consumers and legislators in the past few years.

Internet service provider EarthLink and Webroot Software commissioned a study recently that found the average computer houses roughly 28 items of monitoring software.

Other lawmakers also are turning to legislation to limit or eliminate spyware.

U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Conrad Burns, R.-Mont., recently introduced legislation to prohibit spyware, adware and other intrusive software. The proposed act, known as Spyblock, would make it illegal to install software on a user's computer without notice and consent.

The Federal Trade Commission last month held a hearing in Washington, D.C., to examine the matter. Titled "Monitoring Software on Your PC: Spyware, Adware, and Other Software," the hearing provided dialogue on the subject and looked for possible solutions.

Utah's recently passed anti-spyware law is currently being challenged by Salt Lake City-based WhenU, which claims the statute is unconstitutional and limits the online advertising company's right to commercial speech.