Legal Issues Facing Spam, Popups And Spyware

from the cracking-down dept

It appears that politicians are increasingly paying attention to internet “evils” along the lines of spyware, spam and popups. In all cases, these are instances where the openness of the network has been abused, creating certain problems. However, it’s not clear that any of these legislative solutions are likely to do any good. We already pointed out how ineffective CAN SPAM has been, but a few interesting things happened over the weekend in the areas of popups and spyware. First, a Utah court ruled that pop up ads were not covered by an anti-spam law in that state. The law in question is no longer in effect, so it doesn’t really matter — but it does suggest that the idea of using “unsolicited” email legislation against other forms of “unsolicited” advertising is unlikely to get very far. The news that’s getting the most attention, however, is California’s decision to pass anti-spyware legislation that would give out fines for spyware purveyors. The text of the actual law is worth reading, as it’s clear that a fair amount of thought went into it. However, it’s not entirely clear it will do much to stop spyware. First, the sneakiest forms of spyware have been very careful to hide who is really responsible for the products — meaning, they’re likely to successfully remain hidden from any lawsuits. The just slightly more legitimate adware variant of spyware, on the other hand, has always been more about social engineering than any technical trickery. That is, they bury the permissions in a ton of language so that no one is really sure what they’re agreeing to. Assuming this continues, these firms will be able to claim that they presented the end user with a choice, and those end users agreed to move ahead with the installation.

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