Friday, May 20, 2005

Washington Enacts Spyware Law

Washington has become the latest state to enact a law against spyware. On May 17 Governor Christine Gregoire signed House Bill 1012, which will allow the state Attorney General to seek damages up to $100,000 per violation or actual damages, whichever is greater. The new law will also allow business victims of spyware attacks to sue spyware purveyors.

"Computer users expect their property and privacy to be protected from criminals who would steal their personal information or trespass on their computers. This new law sends a clear warning that secretly implanting spyware and other unwanted programs will be punished," said Rep. Jeff Morris, the sponsor of the spyware bill and chair of the House Technology, Energy and Communications Committee.

The law provides tha "It is unlawful for a person who is not an owner or operator to transmit computer software to the owner or operator's computer with actual knowledge or with conscious avoidance of actual knowledge and to use such software to do any of the following:
(1) Modify, through intentionally deceptive means, settings that control any of the following:
     
(a) The page that appears when an owner or operator launches an internet browser or similar computer software used to access and navigate the internet;
(b) The default provider or web proxy the owner or operator uses to access or search the internet; and
(c) The owner or operator's list of bookmarks used to access web pages;
     
(2) Collect, through intentionally deceptive means, personally identifiable information:
(
a) Through the use of a keystroke-logging function that records all keystrokes made by an owner or operator and transfers that information from the computer to another person;
(b) In a manner that correlates such information with data respecting all or substantially all of the web sites visited by an owner or operator, other than web sites operated by the person collecting such information; and
(c) Described in section 1(9) (d), (e), or (f)(i) or (ii) of this act by extracting the information from the owner or operator's hard drive;
     
(3) Prevent, through intentionally deceptive means, an owner or operator's reasonable efforts to block the installation or execution of, or to disable, computer software by causing the software that the owner or operator has properly removed or disabled automatically to reinstall or reactivate on the computer;
     
(4) Intentionally misrepresent that computer software will be uninstalled or disabled by an owner or operator's action; and
     
(5) Through intentionally deceptive means, remove, disable, or render inoperative security, antispyware, or antivirus computer software installed on the computer.

It is unlawful for a person who is not an owner or operator to transmit computer software to the owner or operator's computer with actual knowledge or with conscious avoidance of actual knowledge and to use the software to do any of the following:

(1) Take control of the computer by:

(a) Accessing or using the modem or internet service for such computer to cause damage to the computer or cause an owner or operator to incur financial charges for a service that is not authorized by the owner or operator;
(b) Opening multiple, sequential, stand-alone advertisements in the owner or operator's internet browser without the authorization of an owner or operator and that a reasonable computer user cannot close without turning off the computer or closing the internet browser;
     
(2) Modify any of the following settings related to the computer's access to, or use of, the internet:

(a) Settings that protect information about the owner or operator in order to steal the owner or operator's personally identifiable information; and
(b) Security settings in order to cause damage to a computer; and

(3) Prevent an owner or operator's reasonable efforts to block the installation of, or to disable, computer software by doing any of the following:

(a) Presenting the owner or operator with an option to decline installation of computer software with knowledge that, when the option is selected, the installation nevertheless proceeds; and
(b) Falsely representing that computer software has been disabled.

It is unlawful for a person who is not an owner or operator to do any of the following with regard to the owner or operator's computer:

(1) Induce an owner or operator to install a computer software component onto the computer by intentionally misrepresenting the extent to which installing the software is necessary for security or privacy reasons or in order to open, view, or play a particular type of content; and

(2) Deceptively cause the execution on the computer of a computer software component with the intent of causing the owner or operator to use the component in a manner that violates any other provision of this section.

7 Comments:

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Computer News
Google plans instant-messaging system, report says



Google Inc. is set to introduce its own instant messaging system, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday, marking the expansion by the Web search leader into text and also voice communications.

Citing unnamed sources "familiar with the service," the Los Angeles Times said that Google's Instant Messaging program would be called Google Talk and could be launched as early as Wednesday.

Google Talk goes beyond text-based instant messaging using a computer keyboard to let users hold voice conversations with other computer users, the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the company's product plans.

If confirmed, the combined computer text and voice-calling service would put Google in competition with a similar service pioneered by Skype, which has attracted tens of millions of users, especially in Europe, to its own service.

Separately, independent journalist Om Malik on his blog at http://gigaom.com/ pointed to technical clues that suggest Google is preparing to run an instant messaging service based on an open-source system known as Jabber.

Jabber technology would allow Google instant message users to connect with established IM systems that also work with Jabber, including America Online's ICQ and Apple Computer Inc.'s iChat, Malik said.

"This is the worst possible news for someone like Skype, because now they will be up against not two but three giants who want to offer a pale-version of Skype," he wrote.

Earlier this week, Google said it was branching out beyond pure search to help users manage e-mail, instant messages, news headlines and music. It introduced a new service called the Google Sidebar, a stand-alone software program that sits on a user's desktop and provides "live" information updates.

Over the past year or so, the company has expanded into e-mail, online maps, personalized news and more.

The product push comes as rivals Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL are all pushing to upgrade existing instant messaging systems and expand into new Internet phone-calling services.

Google's moves take it beyond its roots in Web search and closer to becoming a broad-based Internet media company.

With instant messaging, Google would be breaking into a market in which its major competitors boast tens of millions of subscribers to their established instant messaging services.

America Online, with its AIM and ICQ brands, counts more than 40 million IM users in the United States alone. Yahoo has around 20 million and Microsoft's MSN Messenger numbers some 14 million users, according to recent comScore Media Metrix data.

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