Wednesday, March 23, 2005

New Utah Spyware Law

I neglected to mention last week that on March 17 Utah enacted House Bill 104, creating a new Utah Spyware law.

The spyware law enacted in 2004 defined “spyware" as software residing on a computer that monitored the computer's usage, or sent information about the computer's usage to a remote computer or server, or used a context based triggering mechanism to display an advertisements.

The new Utah spyware law defines "spyware" as software on the computer of a user who resides in Utah that collects information about an website at the time the website is being viewed in Utah, and uses that information to display
pop-up advertising on the computer.

The new law forbids pop-up ads created by spyware if the advertisement is displayed in response to a registered trademark or specific website address.

The new law also states a company that places spyware on someone else's computer can comply with the Utah law by asking if the computer user lives in Utah. If they say no, the law doesn't apply. This is to get around the Commerce Clause problems.

Of course, last year, Utah surprised a lot of people by becoming the first state to enact an anti-Spyware law. The law was enacted rather hastily, when a company in Utah, 1-800Contacts.com, alleged that a company called WhenU was using spyware to divert customers from its web site. Many experts have said the law was poorly written, not to mention a violation of the Commerce Clause, and an injunction was issued against enfocement of the law in 2004.

Utah legislators have acted relatively quickly in response to the criticisms, although doubts remain about their latest effort.

Last Septmeber, Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Consumer Protection Against Spyware Act, making California still the only other state to have a spyware law. That law makes it illegal to, with actual knowledge, or willfully, cause software to be copied onto someone else’s computer open certain advertisements.

Privacy advocates say the California law does not go far enough.

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