Despite its best intentions, the FTC has been notably impotent in its efforts at stamping out spyware. Even after they've paid fines, many spyware distributors continue to operate and thumb their nose at the the government. Since it doesn't look like fines are working, the FTC is now endorsing the idea of jail time for spyware distributors, as it hopes that the key to solving the problem is in stiffer punishments. Anyone who has had their computer overrun by spyware or had their identity stolen could be forgiven if they wanted the people behind spyware thrown in jail, but it's not clear that it's the best solution. For one thing, there's no good definition of spyware, nor is it clear what aspect of it is illegal. Most people, to use an old line, know what spyware is when they see it, but such subjective definitions don't cut it when you're talking about imprisonment. Furthermore, the FTC doesn't have a good way of tracking down spyware distributors, particularly when it comes to its most pernicious forms (aimed primarily at stealing confidential information), much of which originates outside of US borders. As is the case with spam, it's unlikely that government actions will accomplish too much in this battle. The FTC probably realizes this, and in the absence of anything effective that it can do, it at least wants to sound tough.
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