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FTC Seeks Anti-Spyware Authority

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the that-should-fix-things dept.

The Internet 63

Zyxwvut writes "The FTC is seeking more legal authority to go after spyware vendors, and Congress has passed a few bills to support them, but the Senate is ignoring them. While the FTC has prosecuted a few of the largest spyware makers, most of them fly under the radar because the FTC has to meet very stringent legal standards before they can do anything."

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YES! (2, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194731)

It's a miracle! Not that they're finally going after spyware, but that some congressmen actually started using the internet and found out what kind of crap you can catch on your computer from it! Yay! I've been waiting for aggressive antispyware legistlation practically since the internet was invented. I really don't care if it puts me out of a job (in home repairer)

Re:YES! (0, Troll)

aulder (1066702) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194751)

so that means they will go after windows next right?

Re:YES! (1)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195001)

Spyware clogs up the pipes!

Re:YES! (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195007)

Probably so. It's OK for the government to spy on its citizens, but it can't allow the citizens to be spying on each other.

Re:YES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21194877)

It saddens me when people think that the government can solve all their problems with legislation. I myself take measures to avoid spyware, and instruct friends and family how to do the same. The federal government is already over-bearing. Do we really need anymore vague and ill-written laws?

Re:YES! (2, Insightful)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194983)

That's one way to look at it, but OTOH at what point do you say enough is enough? It's all well and good that we educate people on malware, but there has to be a point that the root problem gets addressed. My only real issue with legislation like this is that it doesn't mean squat to the rest of the world, and considering how many spy/malware creators exist outside of the US I can see this kind of initiative falling on it's head.

Re:YES! (1)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195005)

Woops, that was meant to be a reply to this [slashdot.org] post.

Re:YES! (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 6 years ago | (#21196435)

The user's lack of education *is* the root problem. There has always been and will always be people out there trying to rip off and do harm to other people, whether it's legal or not. If this passes, spyware will still be rampant, the only difference will be that we've wasted millions of tax payer dollars trying to fix it.

Trusting a government organization to fix anything is a mistake. We'll be lucky if they don't mandate Windows so that their "FTC approved" spyware checker can run.

Re:YES! (1)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 6 years ago | (#21197115)

The user's lack of education *is* the root problem.

But it's not. Just as you said, there have always been people who will try to rip someone off or to harm others, whether or not the victim is aware of the problem. It's true that an ounce of prevention goes a long way, but there needs to be laws on the books that state that it is not OK to write malicious software. Writing a virus and spreading it with malicious intent is illegal, how is spyware any different? Lets think about what spyware does for a moment. There is spyware out there that masquerades as legitimate software, and then asks the unwitting user for their credit card number and other personal information. It can disable your security settings, change registry entries, etc, etc. I could go on. My point is that spyware can be just as damaging as a virus, the only difference being the method of distribution.

As far as "FTC approved" spyware checkers go, why have we not seen "FTC approved" anti-virus software?

Trusting a government organization to fix anything is a mistake.

So by that logic there is no point in having the police around to make sure no one tries to break into your house? Government and laws exist for a reason. If you know how to defend yourself and how to secure your property, great, but that does not invalidate the fact that laws are (supposed to be) there to protect everyone.

Re:YES! (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21204255)

My only real issue with legislation like this is that it doesn't mean squat to the rest of the world
I could see the US (well Bush) blocking all content country-wide that is determined to have come from a non-US ad agency. Thousands of countries in the rest of the world would be pissed but oh well lol. And then regulate the US ads and tada, almost no spyware links in ads. The vast majority by far of spyware and adware and malware really is from links to something free in an ad.

And we trust the FTC since? (3, Insightful)

ealar dlanvuli (523604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194793)

"Essentially, the FTC wants the ability to impose fines that are not directly tied to consumer loss or company profit."

I can see this ending very well for the consumers.

Re:And we trust the FTC since? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195689)

"Essentially, the FTC wants the ability to impose fines that are not directly tied to consumer loss or company profit."

Actually, this would help to dry up several "IT" positions (a la geek-squad). Also, I know companies are less profitable because of spyware a place I worked at had at least 60 machines reimaged a month because of spyware alone, and that's not counting the machines that were left on the floor after a "successful" cleaning with adaware or spybot.

Re:And we trust the FTC since? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195937)

Or it would grant overreaching powers to a corrupt government organization.

One or the other.

Take your pick.

WARNING: Pedantry in effect (4, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194835)

Congress has passed a few bills to support them, but the Senate is ignoring them
Congress contains the Senate. The House of Representatives has passed a few bills, not Congress as a whole. If Congress had passed a few bills, all that would be left would be Presidential approval.

The reason I mention this is that the House passes lots of bills that never are passed by the Senate. Sometimes the Senate will pass their own version of a bill, and send it back to the House. This is why we have a bicameral legislature -- so that one legislative body can't pass laws by itself. It's a check within a division of the federal government, and serves a useful purpose.

Re:WARNING: Pedantry in effect (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194867)

Sadly, that check is long since past its prime since the method of electing senators was changed.

Re:WARNING: Pedantry in effect (2, Insightful)

absoluteflatness (913952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21196147)

Of all the amendments to attack, you chose the 17th?

I mean, I've heard the reasoning against direct election before, but it's much closer to the 3rd Amendment than the 2nd on the scale of political and popular uproar.

Re:WARNING: Pedantry in effect (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21197511)

Why not? The subject line did warn about pedantry ;)

Re:WARNING: Pedantry in effect (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194963)

No it does not really serve any purpose, and any "checks" that you might see there were not directly intentional and probably put there as a hack to make the system at least function.

If you dig deep into your high school memories, you may recall that they split of congress was a compromise between the big/little states that could not agree if the # of reps per state should be based on population or be a set number. It was originally intended to only have one group in the legislature.

Re:WARNING: Pedantry in effect (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195035)

Moderating the influence of urban areas over rural areas seems like a check to me.

Re:WARNING: Pedantry in effect (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195181)

The eternal argument continues! It's just a matter of opinion I suppose.
The ironic thing, of course, is that the "big" states at the time are now "little" states compared to those in the west, so they would have been better off sticking with the X number per state idea...

Re:WARNING: Pedantry in effect (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195625)

you may recall that they split of congress was a compromise between the big/little states that could not agree if the # of reps per state should be based on population or be a set number.
While the debate between how the # of reps did affect the system we ended up with, the concept of a bicameral legislature was older than that debate. England had a bicameral system in the 17th century, for example.

It was originally intended to only have one group in the legislature.
I think you might want to reread your history. There was never a unified 'intent' to have a unicameral legislature. The majority of framers understood the need for a bicameral institution, but were faced with the problem that they did not want an aristocratic house (like the British House of Lords). One fix would have been a single house, as with the NJ plan. Another fix, the one ultimately accepted, was to find another way of assigning the different houses.

Re:WARNING: Pedantry in effect (2, Interesting)

absoluteflatness (913952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21196297)

It's probably an artifact of the common labeling of House members as "Congressmen" and Senate members as senators. It makes it seem as if the two groups are exclusive, when really members of both houses could be accurately called "Congressmen(/women/persons/critters)".

Perhaps "Representatives" and "Senators" would be better, but then again, both groups are "representatives", too.

Bottom line, the House needs to get itself a more distinctive name. Too bad for them Senate is already taken.

Re:WARNING: Pedantry in effect (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21196347)

Bottom line, the House needs to get itself a more distinctive name. Too bad for them Senate is already taken.
My vote is for the Skelate.

Then we could address them as Skeletor Jones, Skeletor Menendez, etc.

What's next? (3, Interesting)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194839)

Stopping spyware would be great, but if I were you ('you' as in 'citizen of the united states') I would read any proposed laws on how to stop these people very carfeully before jumping up and down of joy.

If the new laws wouldn't be outright hostile to your freedom to use the internet and your computer from the start, they might possibly be easily modified to become that in the future.

Re:What's next? (1, Offtopic)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194849)

Note to self: check your spelling very carefully before posting

Re:What's next? (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 6 years ago | (#21197169)

We're already headed in that direction. The average American uses their computer to satisfy a specific role in their life, we are dedicated to our jobs and families (hence all the medication) and don't want to concern our selves with technical issues such as computer maintenance. I can't count how many times I've been told by a customer "I don't care what you have to do I just want to be able to check my email!". This says it all the CITIZEN in America wants freedom, justice and the American way but the CONSUMER in America wants shiny bells and whistles that work when they go to use them and for that we are willing to turn a blind eye to restrictive legislation. We want what we want and if anyone says no then we turn into our irrational and belligerent selves. You may think I'm insulting our people but in fact I'm proud to say we can afford to spoil our selves.

Re:What's next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21207081)

Not to worry, if you were me, you would have thought the exact same thing. :)

Re:What's next? (1)

heybo (667563) | more than 6 years ago | (#21207139)

The sad truth is even if laws are past they will not be upheld. Look at the "Can Spam Act". Did it reduce the amount of spam we all see? I don't think so.

The Senate is a Subset of Congress (0, Redundant)

pyite (140350) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194841)

"The FTC is seeking more legal authority to go after spyware vendors, and Congress has passed a few bills to support them, but the Senate is ignoring them. [...]"

This bothers me because it's typical of most people not understanding basic facts about the legislature. Congress is comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Saying "Congress has passed a few bills" means both the House and Senate have passed them, not just the House.

So, FTC will be going after governments, M$ too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21194885)

I love the endless circles...:-) I can't wait to see the FTC taking on the German security apparatus. Oh, heck, the FTC could probably find lots of involvement by the FBI, homeland security, etc., etc. Should be quite a show, pass the popcorn.

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/10/31/1955205&from=rss [slashdot.org]
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-security30oct30,0,3975040.story?track=mostviewed-storylevelproposal [latimes.com]

Every distro that defaults to GNOME (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21194909)

is a child of Mordorsoft. People in europe are using KDE anyway.

this could be worrisome... (3, Insightful)

Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194921)

I wonder who gets to decide what is spyware? who is going to write the definition? what other powers will they decide to give themselves why they are at it?

ask yourself, when was the last time the federal government did anything which was in your best interest, and not that of big business or other moneyed powers?

Re:this could be worrisome... (2, Insightful)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195325)

"ask yourself, when was the last time the federal government did anything which was in your best interest, and not that of big business or other moneyed powers?"

The "do not call" list is the only thing congress has done in the last 40 years that has helped me, or worked as advertised. Sad but true.

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195437)

oh yea, I forgot about that.

so they're 1 for

Re:this could be worrisome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21196599)

That should count as 1/2 as the maximum, since it is half-assed and just doesn't go far enough. If they really were acting the interest of the people, there would be no exceptions for political parities or non-profits. Actually they'd just outlaw unsolicited calls completely, with exceptions only for companies which which the called party already has a current contractual relationship, and the caller has good reason to assume that the callee may actually have an interest in the call, so no calling for unrelated products and services.

Re:this could be worrisome... (2, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195857)

The "do not call" list is the only thing congress has done in the last 40 years that has helped me
The federal highway system (what, you thought all those goods you buy cheaply are trucked in off-road vehicles?)
FDIC-insured bank accounts (or do you keep all your money as cash^H^H^H^Hgold coins under your mattress?)
Environmental regulations (do you breathe air and drink water, or eat foods that need air and water to survive?)

It's easy to take potshots at the federal government, since there is so much that DOES get bungled. But take a look around you at the things you do every day, and think about how the Federal Government has contributed to them. It might surprise you how much our daily life is affected in secondary and tertiary ways.

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

dnormant (806535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21197253)

He did say "in the past 40 years"

Federal Highway Act of 1956, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System [wikipedia.org]
FDIC May, 1933, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fdic#History [wikipedia.org]
National Environmental Policy Act 1969, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Environmental_Protection_Act [wikipedia.org]

OK, so they did 2 in the past 40 years.

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21197831)

I see, so the instant something becomes enacted, it ceases to provide benefits?

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

dnormant (806535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21198193)

The OP subject was about what was enacted in the past 40 years. Congress, in the past, has done great things. Recently? Not so much. Yes, I vote.

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21198333)

He did not say 'enacted' he said 'done'. Besides which, appropriations bills and the budget are 'done' by Congress.

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21209999)

The Federal Highway system that is falling apart and that Congress is forcing the states to finance and maintain? If the states pay for it will my Federal taxes go down? Hell no! Those fools will find something to waste my money on as always.

Look at what really happens to any spending bill to find most of the waste. It's all the amendments and earmarks that have nothing to do with the original bill. If half of our money was spent wisely by those fools, most of the complaints about taxes would end.
Many of the environmental regs are questionable because congresscritters have as good an understanding of science as they do of computers and current tech. Most regulation of industry by the government fails because the ones writing the regs don't understand the industry, or they all get bribed, 2 most common causes of failure.

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 6 years ago | (#21197499)

Your being festicious, the article was poorley worded and should have said malware instead of spyware. Malware is anything that causes an undesirable effect on your computer system.

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21197703)

and when they decide that encryption is 'an undesirable effect'? or the ability to play non-drm media? or to communicate without being observed?

you aren't thinking like a politician.

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 6 years ago | (#21206519)

IDK how well known this is but encryption codes and algorithms to break them are treated the same as ballistic missiles in the USA. You can't buy or sell them in any effective form without a whole lot of paperwork outside the country. The other two are covered by that funny little document we call our bill of rights. And Thank You the day I start thinking like a politician find out who did the lobotomy.

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21198529)

ask yourself, when was the last time the federal government did anything which was in your best interest, and not that of big business or other moneyed powers?
They invaded Iraq, which was to help you feel more secure. They passed a few nanny-state laws, which were to save you from yourselves, and make you feel more confident about your kids' futures. They've taken bad but not seriously inept care of your economy (enough to maintain your standard of living). They've tried to help keep nuclear war at bay. They've failed to turn the US into a totalitarian state. They've maintained the free market in most markets. They've kept inflation and taxation down to reasonable levels.

I'd state more, but I think you get the idea.

Re:this could be worrisome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21200797)

So Iraq had nothing to do with Oil?

Re:this could be worrisome... (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21208529)

So Iraq had nothing to do with Oil?
Absolutely. Part of it was to secure oil, which society runs on. That's of direct benefit to the people as well. Mostly though, it was born out of people's paranoia.

Re:this could be worrisome... (2, Insightful)

nametaken (610866) | more than 6 years ago | (#21207129)

Something tells me the first thing they'll put on the list is wireshark, airsnort or some similar utility. Politicians + tech = BAD NEWS. Always.

Nothing But Good Press (3, Interesting)

VengefulCynic (824720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194935)

While this issue has the potential to be a lot more nuanced than the article is letting on, what I really find curious is how no Senator has latched on to the idea of regulating spyware as a good thing. This issue, to my mind, is a lot like passing legislation that ruins the lives of sex offenders. Sure, you can pass laws that go way too far, but in the mind of the voting and news-watching public, if you're going after the Bad Guys, that's Always a Good Thing. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm really shocked that there aren't a couple of Senators (especially among those up for re-election) who haven't decided that it would be a Good Idea to get their names attached the the Law That Stops Bad Guys and run it through the Senate.

It seems to be a break-down in the fundamental egoism and show-boating that runs the Senate... almost as if they were all distracted by a massive policy black hole somewhere else that's absorbing all of their somewhat limited time. I don't know, maybe a war or something.

Re:Nothing But Good Press (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201085)

Why don't you tell your boss that you'll still be coming in and expect to get paid, but you won't be doing your job because something somewhere else is absorbing all of your somewhat limited time.

Good point (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21221605)

I've sort of been wondering about this myself. Like that pathetic "CAN-SPAM" or whatever it was called. Who's paying our fearless leaders off? Perhaps no one has offered the right amount to grease the skids on this. It is so atypical of our chosen ones to pass up an opportunity to at least pretend to do something. Such an obvious opportunity to make noise, er, news. I've always seen it as a liability issue myself. Any just court (I'm using my imagination, so just fantasize here,) would find a tort for all the time and effort of dealing with unwanted software and spam, and order restitution AND damages for the egregious conduct. What is wrong with me that I could be so mistaken here? Spam seems analogous to everyone getting a free load of horse manure on their porch every morning. Some of us might like it for our compost or such, but after a while it can be a bit much. There's probably some law against it, and reasonably so. Malware could be analogous to various things, say a dose of cholera in the well. That too is probably illegal. Is the FTC the only agency with jurisdiction? What is the hold-up?

Exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21194977)

...the FTC has to meet very stringent legal standards before they can do anything.

Which is, of course, the whole point. Perhaps Zyxwvut believes that the PATRIOT act was a sound bit of legislation, and that the whole concept of "innocent until proven guilty" doesn't wash nowadays, but not all of us are so eager to rush headlong into the police state he so ardently desires.

Which spyware vendors contributed to senators? (2, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 6 years ago | (#21194999)

The House and Senate will not truly represent the voter until campaign contributions are limited to registered voters.


I should only be able to give money to candidates I am permitted to vote for.

Re:Which spyware vendors contributed to senators? (1)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195081)

The House and Senate will not truly represent the voter until campaign contributions are limited to registered voters.


I should only be able to give money to candidates I am permitted to vote for.

I think this would violate the Constitution.

Re:Which spyware vendors contributed to senators? (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 6 years ago | (#21196439)

I think you're nuts. I offer no possible evidence or further opinion on the subject, I just wanted to chime in.

Help the Senate to feel our pain? (0)

martyb (196687) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195033)

The problem, as I see it, is that most of the Senate is insulated from the reality of the problem:

  • Their government-provided account (blah-blah@senate.gov) is surely highly-filtered to keep out SPAM.
  • Their staff filters the rest and only forwards the "good stuff".

Thus, for any given senator it's: "Problem? What problem?"

I am curious why the House of Representatives is able to see that there is a problem, but the Senate does not. Could it be that the Representatives are "closer" to the people; are better able to perceive our problems as individuals? IIRC, that was one of the intentions of our having a bicameral legislative branch. Whatever convinced the representatives might be leveraged to help persuade the Senate.

I'd love to see the outcome of a Senator voluntarily publishing their personal e-mail address for harvesting and getting their report on how they liked it.

Note: I am NOT advocating that a staffer anonymously publish any senators' private e-mail addresses -- they have a duty to the Congress to uphold.

Re:Help the Senate to feel our pain? (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21196467)

I'd love to see the outcome of a Senator voluntarily publishing their personal e-mail address for harvesting and getting their report on how they liked it.
Heh. Let's use Senators' private email accounts as spam honeypots (spampots?).

Let's see how many end up spending some money on herbal V1agra -- if Bob Dole uses it, surely there's no shame in it?

I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195597)

Microsoft can sell operating systems that allow spyware and my tax dollars will be used to go after the spyware vendors. What am I missing!

Definition of vendor, please (2, Interesting)

hanshotfirst (851936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195713)

Now, who exactly counts as a spyware "vendor"? I don't see many COTS "spyware" packages (MS products exempted for the sake of argument). I see plenty of spyware masquerading as system utilities, marketing/profiling, weather widgets, screen savers, viruses, and worms attached to things, but none of these seem to come from vendors who advertise themselves as such.

This smells of the same logic as gun control - let's make them highly regulated so we know who has them... but the ones who you don't want to have them - the problems - are most often then ones who go around the regulation to get one. Same with spyware, those that make the really effective spyware aren't going to be registered as software vendors in a way that the FTC can regulate.

Re:Definition of vendor, please (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21199693)

Spyware companies exist. You don't even have to leave Slashdot [slashdot.org] to find that out.

Re:Definition of vendor, please (1)

BillX (307153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21207005)

They are referred to as vendors on anti-spyware sites because if you refer to them as "scumwhores" their lawyers start neeping.

State Attorneys General? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195815)

I hear that guy in New York loves going after high-profile undesirables.
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