May 22, 2007 / 6:04 PM / in 12 years

U.S. House approves less stringent anti-spyware bill

Men make use of an Internet cafe in a file photo. The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that would impose specific penalties for the fraudulent use of spyware but would not impose new requirements on software makers. REUTERS/Kim Kyung Hoon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that would impose specific penalties for the fraudulent use of spyware but would not impose new requirements on software makers.

House lawmakers approved a bill providing for up to five years in jail for those who use spyware to commit fraud but stops short of regulatory requirements sought by some lawmakers.

“It targets the worst forms of spyware without unduly burdening technological innovation,” said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, chief sponsor of the bill which passed on a voice vote.

Spyware has emerged as a major headache for computer users. It can end up on users’ computers through a virus or through downloaded games or other free programs off the Internet.

Spyware can sap computing power, crash machines and bury users under a blizzard of unwanted ads. Scam artists can use spyware to capture passwords, account numbers and other sensitive personal data.

The bill passed by the House on Tuesday is supported by the software industry. It omits provisions in competing legislation endorsed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that would require software distributors and advertisers to clearly notify and obtain consent from consumers before programs can be loaded onto a computer.

Lofgren said those types of requirements could hurt innovation and technology investment.

“Focusing on bad actors and criminal conduct is preferable to an approach that criminalizes technology or imposes notice- or consent-type requirements,” Lofgren said.

There is currently no similar legislation in the Senate.

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