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FTC Threatens Spyware Distributors With Prison 126

Posted by Zonk
from the truth-to-the-situation dept.
Federal regulator Mark Pryor, in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, has stated that spyware distributors should face harsher penalties than fees. His solution: imprisonment. "Federal Trade Commissioner William Kovacic said most wrongdoers in the spyware arena 'can only be described as vicious organized criminals. Many of most serious wrongdoers we observed in this area, I believe, are only going to be deterred if their freedom is withdrawn,' so it's important for the FTC to collaborate on its cases with criminal law enforcement authorities, Kovacic said."
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FTC Threatens Spyware Distributors With Prison

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  • Windows?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mukunda_NZ (1078231) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @03:40AM (#18686137) Homepage
    So what about the developers that put spyware in Windows XP and I'm assuming Vista also contains spyware. Will they go to prison? Will Microsoft be forced to strip the spyware out of it's operating system?
  • by Zadaz (950521) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @03:47AM (#18686151)
    So how do you throw a corporation in prison again?

  • I like this guy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Talgrath (1061686) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @03:51AM (#18686165)
    All I can say is that it is about damn time. I worked for a summer as a tech support agent and spyware caused us more headaches than anything else; and it results in stress, time lost and possibly even monetary loss for individuals with infected computers. The fact that spyware and malware writers can usually avoid punishment (particularly considering that many spyware and malware applications are used to steal people's identities) is simply ridiculous. Good on the senator, and I hope that spyware and malware writers get what is coming to them.
  • Re:Windows?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cpaglee (665238) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @03:53AM (#18686173)
    Therein lies the rub. Should the husband / boyfriend who spies on his partner be faced with jail time? What if they are using his computer? Or should the developer who designs the keystroke logger go to jail? But do we trust the government to define precisely what is Spyware? I have a utility on my computer that remembers old clipboard entries. Is that Spyware? What about 'History' in your browser? What about a cookie that tracks what web site you visit before and after you visit their website? Will legislation mean the end to all Affiliate Programs like Utah's legislation outlawing keyword advertising? It sounds like a pretty slippery slope and personally I'd prefer if the government focussed on other things like balancing the budget.
  • by karmatic (776420) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @03:55AM (#18686187)
    Since a corporation is (in fact) merely a collection of people, with a little legal trimming.

    Remove the trimming, and put the people in jail.
  • What! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dragonquest (1003473) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @04:07AM (#18686225)
    So right, I hate spyware, adware, and the likes. But sending people to jail may be a little on the heavy side. Reason being, who'll decide quantitatively about the severity of the malicious code? And will there be a difference of punishment between individuals and corporations who make spyware? If a corp makes it, they'll be dragged to court resulting in a lengthy legal battle ultimately only resulting in financial loss of the corp, not necessarily prison. There cannot be a very fair system of deciding this since its a very grey area with no clear black and white lines. What some people think of as invasion of privacy could be regarded as a useful convenience by another. The best protection you could have is your common sense.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @04:15AM (#18686273)
    It's a pretty big stretch to call it spyware considering that it does absolutely nothing unless you turn it on.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @04:16AM (#18686277)
    How does it sound now when i substitute rape...

    So right, I hate rapists, molesters, and the likes. But sending people to jail may be a little on the heavy side. Reason being, who'll decide quantitatively about the severity of the rape? And will there be a difference of punishment between individuals and gangs who rape? If a gang does it, they'll be dragged to court resulting in a lengthy legal battle ultimately only resulting in financial loss of the gang, not necessarily prison. There cannot be a very fair system of deciding this since its a very grey area with no clear black and white lines. What some people think of as invasion of privacy could be regarded as a useful convenience by another. The best protection you could have is your common sense.
  • by jkrise (535370) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @04:45AM (#18686389) Journal
    By definition, spyware is one that sends 'personally identifiable information' to a target server without the user's explicit consent. It is reliably established that Windows Genuine Advantage and so-called Critical Updates from Microsoft can be classified thus...

    Also data from 'crashed programs' etc.

    So why is the parent modded troll?

  • Has to be said (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @04:59AM (#18686447)
    /cough Sony /cough
  • Re:Threathen? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @05:22AM (#18686523)
    Because, contrary to normal citizens, corporations still have rights.
  • by gsslay (807818) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @05:42AM (#18686577)
    By definition, a troll is a post that is principally designed to provoke argument without any real concern for the topic of the discussion.



    The article is clearly about people who write and distribute malicious programs for the criminal purpose of stealing information, and thereafter actual property and/or money. We can all complain about some aspects of Microsoft's software (yes, really), but its 'spying' is nothing like the same. Legislation may yet change their behaviour here, but suggesting they are in danger of prison is hyperbole.



    So introducing the subject is going to divert discussion off-topic, and either just another attempt at starting a fan-boy argument, or yet another boring round of Microsoft bashing.

  • by zcat_NZ (267672) <zcat@wired.net.nz> on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @05:56AM (#18686645) Homepage
    "It sends anonymous statistics on what packages you have installed throught apt"

    Anonymous, apart from being associated with your IP address if they happen to keep it in the logs.

    You have to admit that if Microsoft had a program preinstalled in Windows (even if it was turned off by default) which regularly reported every single piece of software you installed and the date you last used it.. I can barely imagine the reaction!

    I'm not sure windows update sends all that much back either. As I understand it Microsoft sends the list of available updates and your machine then downloads anything it doesn't already have. But I might be wrong..

  • Re:Threathen? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @07:17AM (#18687019)
    "Why only threathen?"

    Because this is Slashdot, where lately no one bothers paying attention to the article, or even the blurb (which is incorrect as usual anyway), and just tries to get their opinion in as quickly as possible for moderation.

    This William Kovacic dude is a bureaucrat for the FTC. He has no authority whatsoever to make laws or throw people in jail. All he can do is threaten, much like the drunk guy on the corner (except that he's more likely to get a Congressman to listen).

  • It'll never fly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) * on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @07:33AM (#18687087) Journal
    My Dell computer calls home regularly. I didn't ask for this and I don't want it. Until my warranty expired I didn't dare remove it.

    I have to keep a copy of IE available because Firefox chokes on the tracking cookies MSNBC shoves at me. And still Zonealarm reports spyware being blocked from time to time.

    With this level of white collar participation, business will tell its entertainment branch, government, that this is all perfectly legal. The FTC people are great, and more power to them, but nobody is going to go to jail over it.

    On the other hand, I get spyware blocking reports from Zonealarm when I use a couple of well known bittorrent sites. Now THEY should be afraid. They don't own any congresscritters.
  • by sconeu (64226) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @10:21AM (#18688687) Homepage Journal
    And let's start with Howard Stringer [wikipedia.org] as a thank-you for the Sony Rootkit.
  • by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) * <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @11:04AM (#18689309) Homepage Journal
    Part of the benefit of being a corporation is that the actual people inside are shielded somewhat from the actions of the corporation. The corporation is its own person sometimes. A few things will actually land executives in jail or cause them personal penalties. For example, OFAC violations can cost the CEO some millions of dollars personally. But mainly it's the corporation that is in trouble and not necessarily the execs.

    I think a lot of people forget this fact when they think that corporations deserve to get even more tax and regulatory breaks. The deal has already been made where some rights were traded for other rights, and the cost of that is government charter and regulation. If you want a different deal, then keep your company private. Nobody's forcing anybody to capitalize themselves in the public markets.

    The penalty for corporations, which is not used much, is the death penalty. Revoke their charter for violating the law. We might make business more efficient by enforcing the existing laws. Just one fortune 500 company with a revoked charter might work wonders for fighting corruption.
  • Overseas. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @11:24AM (#18689681)
    Won't have any effect whatsoever on overseas operations.
  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @12:24PM (#18690709)

    Federal regulator Mark Pryor, in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, has stated that spyware distributors should face harsher penalties than fees.
    Spyware has regulatory fees? Well there's your problem right there! Fees condone; fines penalize.
  • by fishdan (569872) * on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @02:27PM (#18692679) Homepage Journal
    Au contraire mon frere. Microsoft is on example of a company who LEGITIMATELY and ILLEGITIMATELY collects information. The nature of privacy is that you are in control of who knows what about you -- and even if you're doing "illegal" things, you should be free from "unreasonable searches."

    Now, even though Microsoft is not taking your information for malicious purposes (I'll concede that), they are violating your privacy by accumulating data on you. The question is, should what they do be considered illegal. Currently it is not. I believe the OP's point was that what MSFT is doing IS currently legal, but if you put a law on the book stating "Software which transmit information off of your computer without the operators knowledge will be illegal" you are getting onto a very slippery slope. Where will AJAX come into this? What about advertising cookies? What about that damn doubleclick gif? The latter 2 are spyware in my book, because they enable people to spy on me. If there were a law on the book against spyware, it would have to be incredibly well crafted to not make most of todays web advertisers liable.

    The point of course is, that just because someone mentions MSFT, doesn't mean that the OP is not on topic. Very Theoish [slashdot.org] of you to suggest otherwise. =)

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