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Introduction of the Internet Spyware (I-SPY) Prevention Act

Location: Washington, DC

INTRODUCTION OF THE "INTERNET SPYWARE (I-SPY) PREVENTION ACT" -- (Extensions of Remarks - February 10, 2005)


Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the "Internet Spyware (I-SPY) Prevention Act."
This bipartisan legislation, which I introduced with my colleagues ZOE LOFGREN of California and LAMAR SMITH of Texas, will impose tough criminal penalties on the most egregious purveyors of spyware, without imposing a broad regulatory regime on legitimate online businesses. I believe that this targeted approach is the best way to combat spyware.

Spyware is a growing and serious problem. The Federal Trade Commission has testified that "spyware appears to be a new and rapidly growing practice that poses a risk of serious harm to consumers." Spyware is software that provides a tool for criminals to crack into computers to conduct nefarious activities, such as altering a user's security settings, collecting personal information to steal a user's identity, or to commit other crimes.

The I-SPY Prevention Act would impose criminal penalties on the most egregious behaviors associated with spyware. Specifically, this legislation would impose up to a 5 year prison sentence on anyone who uses software to intentionally break into a computer and uses that software in furtherance of another federal crime. In addition, it would impose up to a 2 year prison sentence on anyone who uses spyware to intentionally break into a computer and either alter the computer's security settings, or obtain personal information with the intent to defraud or injure a person or with the intent to damage a computer. By imposing stiff penalties on these bad actors, this legislation will help deter the use of spyware, and will thus help protect consumers from these aggressive attacks.

Enforcement is crucial in combating spyware. The I-SPY Prevention Act authorizes $10 million for fiscal years 2006 through 2009, to be devoted to prosecutions, and expresses the sense of Congress that the Department of Justice should vigorously enforce the laws against spyware violations, as well as against online phishing scams in which criminals send fake e-mail messages to consumers on behalf of famous companies and request account information that is later used to conduct criminal activities.

I believe that four overarching principles should guide the development of any spyware legislation. First, we must punish the bad actors, while protecting legitimate online companies. Second, we must not over-regulate, but rather encourage innovative new services and the growth of the Internet. Third, we must not stifle the free market. Fourth, we must target the behavior, not the technology.

By imposing criminal penalties on those that use spyware to commit federal crimes and other dangerous activities, the I-SPY Prevention Act will protect consumers by punishing the bad actors, without imposing liability on those that act legitimately online.

The targeted approach of the I-SPY Prevention Act also avoids excessive regulation and its repercussions, including the increased likelihood that an overly regulatory approach would have unintended consequences that could discourage the creation of new and exciting technologies and services on the Internet. By encouraging innovation, the I-SPY Prevention Act will help ensure that consumers have access to cutting-edge products and services at lower prices.
In addition, the approach of the I-SPY Prevention Act does not interfere with the free market principle that a business should be free to react to consumer demand by providing consumers with easy access to the Internet's wealth of information and convenience. Increasingly, consumers want a seamless interaction with the Internet, and we must be careful to not interfere with businesses' abilities to respond to this consumer demand with innovative services. The I-SPY Prevention Act will help ensure that consumers, not the federal government, define what their interaction with the Internet looks like.

Finally, by going after the criminal behavior associated with the use of spyware, the I-SPY Prevention Act recognizes that not all software is spyware and that the crime does not lie in the technology itself, but rather in actually using the technology for nefarious purposes. People commit crimes, not software.

The I-SPY Prevention Act is a targeted approach that protects consumers by imposing stiff penalties on the truly bad actors, while protecting the ability of legitimate companies to develop new and exciting products and services online for consumers.

I urge each of my colleagues to support this important legislation.

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