Citizens Group Warns Congress to Learn About Spyware Before Passing Laws

March 16, 2005
March 15, 2005 - (HOSTSEARCH.COM) - Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today warned Congress that their currently proposed anti-spyware law is over broad and would force the FTC to regulate software. The group encouraged Congress to take time to understand the technology involved and the nature of the problem before introducing legislation as well. CAGW pointed to a recent FTC report outlining the spyware problem.

"Many legislators are bent on tackling a problem they need to know more about," said CAGW President Tom Schatz. "Enacting a national anti-spyware law without fully understanding the challenges inherent in controlling spyware and adware will transform the FTC into an expensive and intrusive national software regulator. Politicians would be wise to examine that agency's misgivings about the pitfalls of such legislation."

The FTC staff report draws on transcripts, discussions and public comments from the FTC's April 2004 workshop, "Monitoring Software on Your PC: Spyware, Adware, and Other Software." First, the report notes the lack of a consensus definition of spyware, with some definitions being so broad as to include parental control and financial security software. Second, federal officials believe that they already have adequate authority under existing statutes to prosecute spyware distributors. Law enforcement is not stymied "by a lack of federal legislation but rather by the inherent difficulties in investigating and prosecuting spyware cases."

Most importantly, the report acknowledges the rapid technological advancements being made in the private sector to combat spam and spyware. Firewalls, filters, anti-spyware tools, and improved browsers and operating systems are constantly providing newer and cheaper protections to consumers. Although panelists disagreed about the need for further legislation, the report reserves an important role for the FTC in consumer education efforts.

"Every legitimate business associated with the Internet has an interest in eliminating spyware, adware, and spam," Schatz continued. "Their viability depends on consumer satisfaction, which explains why many companies are now giving away anti-spyware tools. The most innovative companies in the world are doing all they can on a full-time basis to combat spyware. Despite the unanimous passage of H.R. 29 by the House Commerce Committee, the technologically challenged federal government should proceed cautiously so it does not make things worse."

The FTC report can be found at

Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation's largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

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