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FTC Threatens Spyware Distributors With Prison

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the truth-to-the-situation dept.

Security 126

Federal regulator Mark Pryor, in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, has stated that spyware distributors should face harsher penalties than fees. His solution: imprisonment. "Federal Trade Commissioner William Kovacic said most wrongdoers in the spyware arena 'can only be described as vicious organized criminals. Many of most serious wrongdoers we observed in this area, I believe, are only going to be deterred if their freedom is withdrawn,' so it's important for the FTC to collaborate on its cases with criminal law enforcement authorities, Kovacic said."

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126 comments

Windows?? (3, Insightful)

Mukunda_NZ (1078231) | about 7 years ago | (#18686137)

So what about the developers that put spyware in Windows XP and I'm assuming Vista also contains spyware. Will they go to prison? Will Microsoft be forced to strip the spyware out of it's operating system?

Re:Windows?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686145)

Send them not just to prison, but to a Turkish prison!

Re:Windows?? (4, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | about 7 years ago | (#18686259)

Send them to something far, far worse than a Turkish prison. Chain them in the RIAA lobby with no pants, clutching a pirated CD of Bing Crosby singing Christmas carols.

Re:Windows?? (5, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 7 years ago | (#18686313)

Why the pirated CD?
Since when does the RIAA need evidence to screw people?

Re:Windows?? (4, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 7 years ago | (#18687097)

Why the pirated CD?

Since when does the RIAA need evidence to screw people?

Ya, but you gotta admit that Bing Crosby gives it a romantic touch. What a voice . . .

Re:Windows?? (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 7 years ago | (#18689913)

Personally, I'm in favour of executing them.

This is neither a crime of passion nor of desperation. Kill em and have done with it.

Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (-1, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#18686155)

a little package called popularity-contest. It sends stats to http://popcon.ubuntu.com/ [ubuntu.com] about what packages people have installed. It's been around since Debian, but Ubuntu install it by default. It's not turned on by default, but it is installed.

But did you know (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686171)

Imus is now more famous than Anna Nicole !! Didja?

Troops dying every damn day and ur an ahole (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686451)

Troops dying every damn day and all you care about is some morning-show jock that makes some off-the-wall comment about some never-heard-of womans b-ball college team? You got a weird sense of priority. Who the hell cares !?

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686273)

It's a pretty big stretch to call it spyware considering that it does absolutely nothing unless you turn it on.

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (3, Informative)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 7 years ago | (#18687035)

it does absolutely nothing unless you turn it on.
If I had a nickel for every time I've used that line on a date I'd be a happy man ;-)


warning: The above content tests positive for sarcasm and/or is a failed attempt at humor and should be taken with a pound of salt.

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (5, Informative)

J0nne (924579) | about 7 years ago | (#18686327)

How is that spyware? It sends anonymous statistics on what packages you have installed throught apt, and you have to choose to enable it.

It does exactly what it claims it does, and you really have to go out of your way to enable it (add/remove software>preferences>statistics>enable popularity contest )

Right under the checkbox there's a clear explanation of what it does:

To improve the user experience of Ubuntu please take part in the popularity contest. If you do so the list of installes software and how often it was used will be collected and sent anonymously to the uubuntu project on a weekly basis.
 
The results are used to improve support for popular applications in the search results

Compare that to Windows update, which 'inspects your system' every time you update, and you have no way to know what exactly it's inspecting, and what it's sending back to MS.

You're probably trolling, and I'm probably wasting my time, but someone modded you up, so I guess at least one person believed you.

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (1, Insightful)

zcat_NZ (267672) | about 7 years ago | (#18686645)

"It sends anonymous statistics on what packages you have installed throught apt"

Anonymous, apart from being associated with your IP address if they happen to keep it in the logs.

You have to admit that if Microsoft had a program preinstalled in Windows (even if it was turned off by default) which regularly reported every single piece of software you installed and the date you last used it.. I can barely imagine the reaction!

I'm not sure windows update sends all that much back either. As I understand it Microsoft sends the list of available updates and your machine then downloads anything it doesn't already have. But I might be wrong..

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 7 years ago | (#18688525)

You realize that popcon only works for packages that have been installed through the APT system?

In windows the equivalent would be to track things installed with the add/remove programs wizard...

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (1)

kryptkpr (180196) | about 7 years ago | (#18689281)

I'm not sure windows update sends all that much back either. As I understand it Microsoft sends the list of available updates and your machine then downloads anything it doesn't already have. But I might be wrong..

From the horse's mouth [microsoft.com]:

Windows Update is committed to protecting your privacy. To provide you with the appropriate list of updates, Windows Update must collect a certain amount of configuration information from your computer. None of this configuration information can be used to identify you. This information includes:

  • Operating-system version number
  • Internet Explorer version number
  • Version numbers of other software for which Windows Update provides updates
  • Plug and Play ID numbers of hardware devices
  • Region and Language setting


I don't believe for a moment that the above information isn't enough to uniquely track you. Between the PnP IDs of all of your hardware and version numbers of all of your software, you're a pretty unique datapoint.

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (2, Informative)

asninn (1071320) | about 7 years ago | (#18686369)

That doesn't make it spyware. I assume most distros (desktop-oriented ones, anyway) also install things like Firefox by default, which - suprise! - sends information on my system to websites when I visit them. But that doesn't make Firefox spyware, simply because it only does so when I tell it to; the situation would be quite different, however, if it did so on its own in the background.

Without knowing anything about popcon really, I think it's safe to say that as long as it has to be EXPLICITELY enabled and/or started by the user, it's not spyware.

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (2, Informative)

eMbry00s (952989) | about 7 years ago | (#18686371)

Does it do things without the users consent? If it doesn't (and it obviously doesn't since it is disabled) then it is not spyware. The Last.fm music tracking is similar to spyware in function, but users install it willingly and it is therefore not spyware.

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (1)

LocoMan (744414) | about 7 years ago | (#18688671)

I does bring an interesting point, though... how do you define spyware?

If it's on a law, it must be defined, but make the definition too strict and spyware makers will just find loopholes... make it too broad, and you end up affecting legitimate apps like windows update or the ubuntu popularity contest. Also, how do you define willingly update/activate it?. A spyware maker can claim the user willingly installed it by leaving the "install XXX" checkbox on when installing a program, or by clicking "yes" or "I accept" on an internet website.

It sounds easy to say, but when it comes to laws it must be said on a way that it can't possibly be misunderstood or misinterpreted even by a lawyer that has never touched a computer before... that's where it gets complicated.

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (4, Funny)

jrockway (229604) | about 7 years ago | (#18686501)

By your logic, you are spyware. Since you know about popularity-contest, you obviously use Debian or Ubuntu. IMFORMATION LEAK! YOU ARE SPYING ON YOURSELF.

Wait. Does that argument make me sound like a complete and utter idiot? Now you know how you sound.

Re:Ubuntu has spyware in it.. (1)

Lavene (1025400) | about 7 years ago | (#18687317)

Xchat (or mIRC for the non-linux people), now there is spyware. It sends *everything* I type to every damn computer in the channel!!!

Re:Windows?? (2, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#18686157)

i'm certainly no fan of windows or MS, but MS products are one of the few things you can count on not containing spyware as such. yes they do have activation, no it doesn't spy on your personal information.

Re:Windows?? (2, Informative)

Mukunda_NZ (1078231) | about 7 years ago | (#18686303)

Well actually when you update Windows, an encrypted list of all installed software is sent to Microsoft, at least with XP, and I'm sure Vista would do they same. I believe also, though I'm not sure, that Windows Media Player reports on you too.

Re:Windows?? (2, Informative)

Nightspirit (846159) | about 7 years ago | (#18686477)

I don't have the link on hand, but a quick google should find it. I believe the info sent to MS is an xml with actually very little information.

Re:Windows?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686363)

I wouldn't say never, there is the issue of the Alexa registry key:

http://www.imilly.com/alexa.htm [imilly.com]

Interesting stuff, even if it's not initially active...

Re:Windows?? (3, Insightful)

cpaglee (665238) | about 7 years ago | (#18686173)

Therein lies the rub. Should the husband / boyfriend who spies on his partner be faced with jail time? What if they are using his computer? Or should the developer who designs the keystroke logger go to jail? But do we trust the government to define precisely what is Spyware? I have a utility on my computer that remembers old clipboard entries. Is that Spyware? What about 'History' in your browser? What about a cookie that tracks what web site you visit before and after you visit their website? Will legislation mean the end to all Affiliate Programs like Utah's legislation outlawing keyword advertising? It sounds like a pretty slippery slope and personally I'd prefer if the government focussed on other things like balancing the budget.

Re:Windows?? (2, Informative)

walt-sjc (145127) | about 7 years ago | (#18686633)

Oh it's pretty clear. The partner / boyfriend should be faced with jail time if it is not his computer. If it is, then it's not so clear. If the keystroke logger (A) is installed automatically with no warning or the installer's knowledge as part of another application (B), then the publisher of B should be liable. If the BF/partner installs the logger with full knowledge of what it does, then the onus falls on the BF. Cookies are not applications and wouldn't fall under the category of "program" or "application."

Re:Windows?? (1)

seven7h (926826) | about 7 years ago | (#18686743)

The difference is the scale on which the spying is being done.
If i was to slip a few dollars from someones pocket i would expect less punishment than if i was to go through a bunch of bags and steal all the money from them, just as someone who simply looks at some private information on a private computer would expect must less punishment that someone who came up with an automated method of spying on millions of people at once.

Mod parent up .. this isn't a troll! (3, Insightful)

jkrise (535370) | about 7 years ago | (#18686389)

By definition, spyware is one that sends 'personally identifiable information' to a target server without the user's explicit consent. It is reliably established that Windows Genuine Advantage and so-called Critical Updates from Microsoft can be classified thus...

Also data from 'crashed programs' etc.

So why is the parent modded troll?

Re:Mod parent up .. this isn't a troll! (5, Insightful)

gsslay (807818) | about 7 years ago | (#18686577)

By definition, a troll is a post that is principally designed to provoke argument without any real concern for the topic of the discussion.



The article is clearly about people who write and distribute malicious programs for the criminal purpose of stealing information, and thereafter actual property and/or money. We can all complain about some aspects of Microsoft's software (yes, really), but its 'spying' is nothing like the same. Legislation may yet change their behaviour here, but suggesting they are in danger of prison is hyperbole.



So introducing the subject is going to divert discussion off-topic, and either just another attempt at starting a fan-boy argument, or yet another boring round of Microsoft bashing.

Re:Mod parent up .. this isn't a troll! (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | about 7 years ago | (#18686659)

You agreed to be spied on by microsoft. It's in the EULA, and is quite clear. That's why some of us only run MS products in a VM jail that has no network connectivity outside the local LAN. In a corp setting, all updates are done via a corp server and not directly via standard windows update.

Re:Mod parent up .. this isn't a troll! (1)

Mukunda_NZ (1078231) | about 7 years ago | (#18686701)

Thank you, I am surprised that I got modded troll... It certainly wasn't my intention. Perhaps next time I'll have to give links to back up what I'm saying, I had simply assumed that people here on slashdot knew enough about the situation for me to not have to go and reiterate it.

Re:Mod parent up .. this isn't a troll! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686881)

"By definition, spyware is one that sends 'personally identifiable information' to a target server without the user's explicit consent"

By my definition anything that gets send from my computer that I did not condone/is coming from a program that works for the benefit of someone else is considered spyware.

You see, there is no way in which I can be certain that the send information is, after being received, not in some way combined with something 'personally identifiable'.

And as for that "non-identifiable information" itself ? Yeah, right : I mostly can not identify what its saying, as it al seems to be garbled (encrypted !) binary data (no way to be certain what is in there or not).

Allso : the Law seems to consider anything that does not have your name in it as not 'personally identifiable'. Not even if the data contains unique identifiers from your machine's hardware.

In short words : I consider any program that sends data that is not directly connected to resolving a request-for-action the user has initiated (but is used for the benefit of third-parties) as 'Spyware'.

Programs like that are like parasites : of no benefit for me, the user, and are using my system for "nourishment" (resources, engergy, band-width, etc).

Re:Windows?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18689217)

What about big multinational music labels that put rootkits on PCs?

What? That's already a felony? And nobody went to prison?

Then what good would it be to pass a law putting spyware purveyers in prison?

Interesting challenge. (3, Insightful)

Zadaz (950521) | about 7 years ago | (#18686151)

So how do you throw a corporation in prison again?

Re:Interesting challenge. (2, Insightful)

karmatic (776420) | about 7 years ago | (#18686187)

Since a corporation is (in fact) merely a collection of people, with a little legal trimming.

Remove the trimming, and put the people in jail.

Well.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686229)

There is someone responsible, there is always someone responsible, unless you live in denial of course!

Re:Interesting challenge. (4, Interesting)

asninn (1071320) | about 7 years ago | (#18686355)

Easy: throw the CEO in prison, or the board of directors, or other folks in upper management who're responsible for the crimes the company committed.

FWIW, this seems like a good idea, too. I'm not a fan of prison terms in general, but I also think that they're quite good at deterring white-collar crime (fraud etc., as opposed to blue-collar crime where you actually have to get your hands dirty - armed robbery, battery, and so on). The problem with penalty fees is that they're paid by the company, not the individuals who're actually responsible - so even if worst comes to worst and if the company will go bankrupt, they'll just go and start another one.

It's like punishing mafia hitmen but letting the actual dons go free - they'll just hire new hitmen and continue like before. But as soon as the directors of a spyware company are *personally* threatened with punishment for their deeds (and let's face it, it *is* upper management that is responsible for these things: the company does not have a life of its own that goes beyond the people working in/for it, and doesn't just decide to commit crimes on its own), most likely will stop and comply with the letter of the law, at least.

Re:Interesting challenge. (2, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | about 7 years ago | (#18689309)

Part of the benefit of being a corporation is that the actual people inside are shielded somewhat from the actions of the corporation. The corporation is its own person sometimes. A few things will actually land executives in jail or cause them personal penalties. For example, OFAC violations can cost the CEO some millions of dollars personally. But mainly it's the corporation that is in trouble and not necessarily the execs.

I think a lot of people forget this fact when they think that corporations deserve to get even more tax and regulatory breaks. The deal has already been made where some rights were traded for other rights, and the cost of that is government charter and regulation. If you want a different deal, then keep your company private. Nobody's forcing anybody to capitalize themselves in the public markets.

The penalty for corporations, which is not used much, is the death penalty. Revoke their charter for violating the law. We might make business more efficient by enforcing the existing laws. Just one fortune 500 company with a revoked charter might work wonders for fighting corruption.

Re:Interesting challenge. (1)

kahrytan (913147) | about 7 years ago | (#18686521)

CEO/President is directly or indirectly responsible for employees that the corporation hires. Unless of course one employee went rogue and is defying corporate rules. ie, The corporate charter states that the software it sells must not contain spyware but employee defies it and does it anyways. That is only if the employee is not linked to the ceo in anyway. Witnesses could easily say CEO told the employee to do it. In which case, CEO is responsible.

Re:Interesting challenge.Not for Direct Revenue (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18687255)

It will be a long time before it comes to that. The FTC can't even assess a decent fine [ftc.gov] for clear violations of existing spyware laws. Think about it, these guys got off with a measly $1.5m fine total after pocketing $6m to $10m for each of the four partners (see Ben Edelman's site [benedelman.org] for the details). They're laughing all the way to the bank. So forget about the risks of prison. Quite the contrary, start a spyware company and rake in millions.

I like this guy (3, Insightful)

Talgrath (1061686) | about 7 years ago | (#18686165)

All I can say is that it is about damn time. I worked for a summer as a tech support agent and spyware caused us more headaches than anything else; and it results in stress, time lost and possibly even monetary loss for individuals with infected computers. The fact that spyware and malware writers can usually avoid punishment (particularly considering that many spyware and malware applications are used to steal people's identities) is simply ridiculous. Good on the senator, and I hope that spyware and malware writers get what is coming to them.

Good, spyware sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686181)

Anyone who has ever been asked by people to clean up their machine (everyone?) knows that some spyware is absolutely horrid. While most randomly picked up spyware isn't more than a few clicks away from being (almost) gone, some of it is just so bad Windows needs to be formatted and clean installed. The kind of people that think weatherbug and things of that nature are neat. I don't believe many would disagree... Any company can pull money out of their ass to pay a fine, but prison? :)

Re:Good, spyware sucks. (3, Funny)

computational super (740265) | about 7 years ago | (#18688111)

Any company can pull money out of their ass to pay a fine, but prison?

Oh, there's some pulling out involved... although as I understand it, you don't have to actually be an active participant.

Fix Computers (2, Interesting)

Psychotic_Wrath (693928) | about 7 years ago | (#18686185)

Spyware provides me with some extra cash on the side. So I don't really mind it so much. People callin me up every so often sayin their computer is running slow and they get all these ads that they don't want. Fix it up, and make some money.

Making the punishment fit the crime (5, Interesting)

chebucto (992517) | about 7 years ago | (#18686195)

This is a really good idea. Spyware makers are the worst in terms of computer crime.

I remember, not too long ago, when pricks around the world wrote dialers for people with dial-up connections. Dialers, once installed, would route someone's call to their ISP through some insanely far-away place (usually pimples in the pacific) with insanely high long-distance costs. The people who wrote the software would then split the profits made from the long-distance call with the corrupt operator of the far-away places' phone company. The effect was to leave people out-of-pocket by a huge amount (hundreds or thousands of dollars). If the target got the long-distance charge removed by the local phone company, the local phone company would have to eat the charges.

The point of the above is to underline the character of crimes committed: it's pure theft. Modern spyware either seals people's browsing habits or personal information, so it's a little less direct, but it's still a theft.

I think spyware writers are more foul than virus writers: while virus writers do what they do for the technical thrill and bother a lot of people in the process, spyware writers do it just to get money.

Their motives are base, their methods are underhanded, and they should go to jail.

Re:Making the punishment fit the crime (5, Informative)

daterabytez (985178) | about 7 years ago | (#18686239)

I think spyware writers are more foul than virus writers: while virus writers do what they do for the technical thrill and bother a lot of people in the process, spyware writers do it just to get money.
Actually, there was a time when this was probably true, but no longer. A great many viruses and exploits today, well over half, are purely for financial gains. The recent ANI exploit is just one example [bbc.co.uk].

-Carl

Re:Making the punishment fit the crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686293)

Spyware makers are the worst in terms of computer crime.

Well, there are lots of scum out there doing crime on computers, but my vote for #1 has to be the spammers. At least with Spyware I have a chance to protect myself. With spam, I'm buried despite my best efforts.

(Yes, I know there is always some guy on slashdot who has never gotten a piece of spam despite having an email address they've given to everyone for the last 20 years. I'm not so lucky, nor is anyone I know personally.)

Re:Making the punishment fit the crime (1)

Lord_Ultimate (1049752) | about 7 years ago | (#18689885)

You're on the right track here. Just ask spyware makers one simple question with two options:

Would you like to go to federal "pound me in the @$$" prison?

-> Yes
-> I'm pretty sure I do, but first I just want a 90-day demo

Threathen? (1)

ms1234 (211056) | about 7 years ago | (#18686213)

Why only threathen? Why not send them directly to prison without passing Go and colleting 200...

Re:Threathen? (3, Insightful)

Rocketship Underpant (804162) | about 7 years ago | (#18687019)

"Why only threathen?"

Because this is Slashdot, where lately no one bothers paying attention to the article, or even the blurb (which is incorrect as usual anyway), and just tries to get their opinion in as quickly as possible for moderation.

This William Kovacic dude is a bureaucrat for the FTC. He has no authority whatsoever to make laws or throw people in jail. All he can do is threaten, much like the drunk guy on the corner (except that he's more likely to get a Congressman to listen).

Re:Threathen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18688295)

Look closely at the drunk in the corner -- he is William Kovacic.

Yes!!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686217)

One step closer to the death penalty!

Maybe we can eventually even pass an amendment granting an exception to that whole 'cruel and usual' limitation.

What! (5, Insightful)

dragonquest (1003473) | about 7 years ago | (#18686225)

So right, I hate spyware, adware, and the likes. But sending people to jail may be a little on the heavy side. Reason being, who'll decide quantitatively about the severity of the malicious code? And will there be a difference of punishment between individuals and corporations who make spyware? If a corp makes it, they'll be dragged to court resulting in a lengthy legal battle ultimately only resulting in financial loss of the corp, not necessarily prison. There cannot be a very fair system of deciding this since its a very grey area with no clear black and white lines. What some people think of as invasion of privacy could be regarded as a useful convenience by another. The best protection you could have is your common sense.

Logical substitution of another crime? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686277)

How does it sound now when i substitute rape...

So right, I hate rapists, molesters, and the likes. But sending people to jail may be a little on the heavy side. Reason being, who'll decide quantitatively about the severity of the rape? And will there be a difference of punishment between individuals and gangs who rape? If a gang does it, they'll be dragged to court resulting in a lengthy legal battle ultimately only resulting in financial loss of the gang, not necessarily prison. There cannot be a very fair system of deciding this since its a very grey area with no clear black and white lines. What some people think of as invasion of privacy could be regarded as a useful convenience by another. The best protection you could have is your common sense.

Re:Logical substitution of another crime? (1)

dragonquest (1003473) | about 7 years ago | (#18686295)

I was talking about the victim here. In case of some privacy intruding software, some people may find it annoying and some may see it as a useful addition. Like a cookie knowing your search history. However, take the case of rape, I doubt you'll find many victims who think of it as a useful convenience.

Re:Logical substitution of another crime? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686549)

Some people like getting raped too, just like some people might like getting spyware. I think more people like being raped than like getting their computer completely fucked up though.

Re:What! (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | about 7 years ago | (#18686537)

That's exactly the point. Someone steals 100$, he risks prison (or being beaten up if he is spoted by the victim). On the other hand, if a corporation steals millions from thousands of victims using malwares, should it be OK to simply fine them for a fraction of their benefit?
One of the problem of modern capitalism is that corporations have more rights than average people and far less liabilities, so the best way to maximise shareholders gains is to act like a criminal. Anything that helps balance that is welcome.

Re:What! (1)

magixman (883752) | about 7 years ago | (#18686875)

I have no problem sending people to jail if they violate laws. That has been the trend these days with corporate criminals. Only problem is that spyware companies will just move abroad. So if you really want this to work you have to target the companies that do business with spyware companies. If an ad for your product pops up using software that is illegal you should be liable. "Oh your honor, we had no idea how that ad and landing page ended up there", would not cut it.

Re:What! (1)

teflaime (738532) | about 7 years ago | (#18687925)

But sending people to jail may be a little on the heavy side

Why? Effective punishment must be determined and fines aren't working. Prison seems like the last best choice.

who'll decide quantitatively about the severity of the malicious code? And will there be a difference of punishment between individuals and corporations who make spyware?

How about any malicious code is worthy of imprisonment? Seems reasonable to me. If the definitions seem unclear to you, maybe you should urge your political representatives to add clarity to such definitions when they start crafting the legislation to criminalize the behavior.

If a corp makes it, they'll be dragged to court resulting in a lengthy legal battle ultimately only resulting in financial loss of the corp, not necessarily prison.

Not if the law specifically holds corporate officers accountable for any such code. It's time we reeastablish corporate responsibility in our legal code, since Bush & Co. have done their absolute best to take the teeth out of it over the last 2 years. Corporations are artificial entities used to shield share holders and corporate officers from liability. We need to strip that shield, and return the responsiblity for forcing adherence to the law upon both groups, who under Milton Friedman's guidance have long sought to abandon any responsibility for such things.

Re:What! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 years ago | (#18690445)

who'll decide quantitatively about the severity of the malicious code?

A court of law, just like always.

Yeah, I'm not excited about the prospect either. But can you really come up with a better solution?

Re:What! (1)

Duhavid (677874) | about 7 years ago | (#18691061)

In *every* crime, there are shades of grey, and a need to
determine the severity of the issue. And then the
punishment.

Fraud is something that both corporations and individuals
can engage in. Should we eliminate jail time for that also?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686479)

But if they add porn,online libel and hate speech,and "leverage" their power over the internet its not going to be any good.
Like bills with bonus paragraphs.And you can stop most spyware.

Oh please please please! (1)

KlausBreuer (105581) | about 7 years ago | (#18686545)

Do this! And make it international!
Because our stupendously moronic german gouverment wants to use systems like this to spy on our home computers - in the war against terrrrrrorism, of course. Then we could finally dump these idiots into jail :-D

It's a good idea, but... (2, Interesting)

Lunarsight (1053230) | about 7 years ago | (#18686891)

.. in order for this to work, they need a clear, concise definition of what Spyware is. As somebody else already said, it gets kind of murky when they have end user agreements which trick the user into agreeing to accept the spyware as a stipulation for using the program. Realistically, 3/4 of people don't sit there and read all the fine print in the end user agreement. If I wanted to legally get spyware onto somebody's computer, all I would have to do is make the end user agreement longer than a War and Peace novel, and then put the 'spyware clause' somewhere in the middle. One final note: I don't agree with the prison time part - this seems too kind to me. Why can't we bring back cruel and unusual punishments? If you were to threaten to flog the people responsible for spyware, that would be an even bigger deterrent.

Re:It's a good idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18688617)

That can be fixed by making EULAs machine parseable. I think the EU has a project about encoding legal documents as XML.

Re:It's a good idea, but... (1)

VinB (936538) | about 7 years ago | (#18691301)

Cruel and unusual punishment. Hmm. You know, if you substitute 'creative' for 'unusual' it almost sounds ok. I mean, aren't we promoting creativity and individualism these days?

Unless FTC has Long Arm of Putin, good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18686897)



Unless FTC has Long Arm of Putin, good luck BECAUSE only in Soviet Russia (CCCP) is long arm of Putin reality. By meaning, no one safe with Putin after him. FTC is baby police.

Mark Pryor is a Senator . . . (3, Informative)

Dausha (546002) | about 7 years ago | (#18686987)

We need better fact checking here. Mark Pryor is the junior senator from Arkansas. The FTC official is William Kovacic.

Re:Mark Pryor is a Senator . . . (1)

kilgortrout (674919) | about 7 years ago | (#18688273)

No, Mark Prior is a perennially injured pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. Oh, it's "Pryor"; never mind.

Breaking and entering (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about 7 years ago | (#18687039)

"Breaking and entering" should be applied in those cases. I could not find a definitive internet resource on the sentencing on that matter, but people should receive at least 3 months in prison

It'll never fly (3, Insightful)

DynaSoar (714234) | about 7 years ago | (#18687087)

My Dell computer calls home regularly. I didn't ask for this and I don't want it. Until my warranty expired I didn't dare remove it.

I have to keep a copy of IE available because Firefox chokes on the tracking cookies MSNBC shoves at me. And still Zonealarm reports spyware being blocked from time to time.

With this level of white collar participation, business will tell its entertainment branch, government, that this is all perfectly legal. The FTC people are great, and more power to them, but nobody is going to go to jail over it.

On the other hand, I get spyware blocking reports from Zonealarm when I use a couple of well known bittorrent sites. Now THEY should be afraid. They don't own any congresscritters.

Re:It'll never fly (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18689251)

You can't own congresscritters -- they have moral standards. You can only rent them. Pray that no one else rents them at a higher rate at the same time.

Spyware authors are terrorists (0, Offtopic)

tokentry (1083553) | about 7 years ago | (#18687539)

Lets fire up the patriot act and use our black helicopters to capture these people and ferry them to secret CIA prisons in 2nd world countries. There we can torture them into admitting anything.

this is a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18688605)

isn't it true that spyware is exclusively a proprietary software thing. It would be much easier to criminalize propritetary software makers.

Does this include unintentional spyware spread? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18689365)

Cause some paper pusher just sent me a student housing application with spyware in it, then made a joke about it when i complained and asked for a snail mail application

Our jail system is already too crowded (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 7 years ago | (#18689377)

I'd rather the jail system reserve the cells for violent criminals, like murderers or rapists. Put the spyware distributors under house arrest (with the ankle bracelet) and forbid them from having a computer or any other device that can access the Internet (no cell phone with web access, no game system, etc.) in their house or from working with computers or Internet-capable devices for the duration of the house arrest. The courts can determine what's allowed and what's forbidden. Any violations nets the distributor a significant fine and an extension on their house arrest.

freedom of expression? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18689473)

shouldnt we go after the people who use the spyware and not the producers?

i mean we do the same thing for guns right?

(not attempting to troll here, im just wondering if anyone else feel that soon they could just say "no more video games" or "no more buggy software" or etc, i mean is it the governments job to limit producers or punish users? or is there more?)

Overseas. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18689681)

Won't have any effect whatsoever on overseas operations.

Fees, Fines, Foes, Fun (2, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 7 years ago | (#18690709)

Federal regulator Mark Pryor, in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, has stated that spyware distributors should face harsher penalties than fees.
Spyware has regulatory fees? Well there's your problem right there! Fees condone; fines penalize.

Re:Fees, Fines, Foes, Fun (1)

VinB (936538) | about 7 years ago | (#18691197)

The Feds giveth, the Feds taketh away.

Re:Fees, Fines, Foes, Fun (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 7 years ago | (#18691449)

The Feds giveth, the Feds taketh away.
Heh. You make me wish I had used the subject "Fees? Fines? Faux Funds!" instead.

Hang em... (1)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | about 7 years ago | (#18691113)

Seriously, I spend enough time cleaning out that Winfixer, Vundo, W32.spybot, SpyAxe, and AIM virus infections from college student computers at work. While thats job security for me I'd rather see the people that make this crap hang for all the frustration, down time, and expense these things cause.

Catch them how? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | about 7 years ago | (#18691545)

This is the Internet we're talking about, right?

So you get an IP address and this means exactly what? You call up the ISP and ask for information about this but the response is "we destroy all logs". Assuming you can get law enforcement involved or file a civil suit you might be able to get the ISP a subpoena. Of course, you find out they were lying about not having logs and they can indeed tell you what account had that IP address at the given time.

You have your culprit, right? Wrong - the account holder as no responsiblity. You cannot prove it was an individual, just that it was a computer possibly not under the control of the account holder. Dead end.

The story is worse if the attack originates across national borders. You can't sue, and law enforcement doesn't care until the damages are a large fraction of the GDP. And usually damages are to government directly. Dead end.

With spyware and such, so you track down who is the source for your infection and find a company. It better be in the same country or you find the same "Why would we care?" attitude. Even if it is in the same country, again how are you going to jail a company? You find a group of marketing folks that wouldn't know spyware from wash-n-wear. And their Eastern European "technical division" didn't seem to leave any business cards.

I don't see any enforcement being possible at all. Sure, you might catch up with some really arrogant folks that believe they can get away with anything, but this isn't going to stem the tide. You need enforcement that shows 90-100% of the perpetrators get caught and punished, not 2-3% because at the 2-3% level fines are just a cost of doing business. And business is very, very good.

Besides, this is the US we're talking about. Other countries aren't going to be volunteering to extradite people because they know "the US tortures people" and we have the death penalty. Besides, without PayPal scams, Ebay scams and the like the economy of some Eastern European countries would tank. Stupid Americans are funding these operations and nobody is that interested in making it stop. Except maybe the congresscritter representing these stupid Americans.
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