Judge Stops Utah's Anti-Spyware Law

from the making-the-world-safe-for-spyware dept

A judge has granted an injunction against the new spyware law in Utah, in a case brought by adware company WhenU. The company claims that they support a federal anti-spyware law, but that the state law goes too far. While I’ve defended the law in the past some parts of it may be questionable — including a ban on certain software that uses context-based tools for advertising. Obviously, this is targeted at WhenU and Claria and others who pop up contextual ads, but as we’ve explained before, this should be perfectly legal if (big if) the end-user decides they want it. Unfortunately, too many people are confusing two different issues here. The first issue is how this software gets installed on a computer, and the second is what it does on that computer once installed. The real problem with spyware is that it gets installed without the user realizing it. It’s not the fact that it pops up ads. If someone wants software that pops up contextual ads (see: Gmail) that should be their choice. The problem is all about how the program gets installed.

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Comments on “Judge Stops Utah's Anti-Spyware Law”

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Chris Quirke (user link) says:

Revenue Reditrection

What a commercial malware does when installed IS a problem worthy of legislation, just as is how it gets there.

It’s not pop-ups and context-related ads that are the problem per se, but where other vendor’s content is altered to redirect revenue from those who provide the value to interposing commercial malware.

Ads covering the site’s banners, added links directing traffic to competitor’s sites, that sort of thing. That’s the same sort of problem as “piracy”, file sharing impact on copyright, etc.

If software is protected against reverse-engineering and modification, and copyright protection schemes are protected against utilities to disable them, then ionline content should be protected against on-the-fly changes such as imposed by several commercial malware revenue models.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Revenue Reditrection

No. I disagree on just about every point you make. If someone wants to change their own viewing experience on their own computer, they have every right to do so.

Besides, you claim that it’s identical to the “problem” of piracy — when studies have already shown that it’s not really a problem at all.

Finally, it should be pretty clear, that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reverse engineering and modification. If you buy something, you should have the right to do what you want with it.

How come you don’t?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Bullshit

Once again Mike, how many people do you know that purposely WANT and ACTIVELY use Gator/Claris/Satan ?

What studies Mike ? Support your position.

Gator/Claris/Satan steal from honest legitimate website.

You know it and I know it & everyone who has downloaded Spybot & AdAware know it.

DV Henkel-Wallace says:

Re: Re: Re: Bullshit

Once again Mike, how many people do you know that purposely WANT and ACTIVELY use Gator/Claris/Satan ?…Gator/Claris/Satan steal from honest legitimate website.

That’s a very dangerous position to take.

If you don’t want Gator installed on your machine (as I don’t on mine either, btw) then the fact that it’s surreptitiously installed is a problem.

But if you think that Gator’s function is wrong then you imply a huge number of dangerous things. Basically you’re saying that the person sending the data should have final authority of how the site is viewed. Personally, I use a special browser that shows essentially no ads, and no text backgrounds. I also never download flash content of any sort. That should be my right.

The whole point of how HTTP+HTML work is that the user’s computer decides how it wants to interpret and present the data. What the guy sending it wants is irrelevant.

Chris Quirke (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Bullshit

I do see your point – that if a reader knowingly prefers no ads and suppresses them, or would rather look at alternate ads as provided by a different ad vendor, they should have the right to do so. And perhaps at the level of law, that makes sense (i.e. the provider of content would use contract terms of use rather than law as the “policeman”).

On piracy, I do see a difference between those who warez stuff for free and those who milk warez as a revenue stream – and I do have a problem with the latter. It’s the same problem with revenue directors who derive revenue from the value they add (“I think I’ll look at eZulu’s ads and links today”) but from the value they leech onto.

The latter’s the principle I was stating here.

I do think that if the law is going to protect the rights of software vendors, record labels and movie studios, then that same protection should be extended to online content creators.

Whether that should be the case for *any* of the above (I think most would say yes, but would then debate about how far these rights should be protected, for how long, and against what) is another matter.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Bullshit

You’re missing the point by a wide margin. I’m not saying that anyone does want to use these programs. I’m saying that *IF* they do, they should be allowed to. Why should we limit what people can do on their own computers. The problem with the law is that it takes away that ability from people. It’s a slippery slope and it opens a very dangerous door that you don’t want opened. I’ve never said that anyone really does want to use these programs… however, the problem is how they are installed, not what they do. If someone did want to use them, why are you saying they can’t?

Why can’t you see the difference between this particular piece of crap software and the legal principle?

data64 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Bullshit

I run Privoxy(http://www.privoxy.org/) which removes ads from websites and lets me change how website looks (eg: eliminate shockwave and flash content). According to this law that is illegal. This is the point Mike is trying to make. Get gator/Claria and WhenU for how they install things not the fact they change the pages to look different from what the page creator intended.

Marty Fried says:

adware and popup ads

I totally agree with you on this, but…
You comment about gmail is incorrect, and bugs me a bit because people are so misinformed about gmail. Have you looked at it? If not, I have an extra invitation for the beta I can use. There are no popups. There are no ads in outgoing mail (or incoming, actually). You can delete mail forever if you wish.

The ads are only on the far right of the screen while you are reading mail, like Google. If you browser window is too small, you won’t even see them. They don’t flash, move, animate, popup, or attack you in any way.

I can’t believe some of the crap I hear from people about how bad it is, when they obviously haven’t used it.

I find it very useful, not as a regular email address, but as a target for forwarding from other accounts things I want to keep, or access from a browser anywhere. You can send encrypted attachments with information you want to protect, if needed.

Marty says:

Re: Re: adware and popup ads

Sorry, I know from your writing that you don’t disapprove of the gmail (or any voluntary adware) model. I guess I took your words too literally, about popup ads, as meaning the kind that actually popup to attract attention, which is what many think gmail does. There are so many people with absurd views about gmail, so I don’t want to feed their flawed views.

I saw one web site that refuses to even reply to a gmail address. why do they think any other email account is any better? Might be a good column for you.


Charles W. says:

No Subject Given

To whom ever asked who wants gator installed. I have a user here at work that paid not once, but twice for licensed copies of gator. One for home, and one for work. Why? I don’t know, but when we give him a new system the first thing he does is reinstall his copy of gator. So yes there are people who want it. Just can’t figure out why.

-Charles W.

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