Congress takes on the force behind unwanted pop-up ads.
Like the army hidden inside the Trojan horse, so-called spyware is software that infiltrates your computer network masquerading as, or tagging along with, desired and downloaded programs. Along with its sinister companion adware, spyware is responsible for 80% of the pop-ups that clog your monitor every day. But newly proposed legislation known as the Spyblock Act is designed to prohibit companies from covertly installing software on your network.
"We've always had a problem with security in our computer systems, and as technology plays a larger role in business, we need to get this problem under control," says bill co-sponsor Sen. Conrad Burns, a Republican from Montana. Though the crackdown is likely to be welcomed by most businesses, it presents a new burden for software companies, who will have to institute stricter privacy standards if it passes and be upfront about any secondary functions of their products. Firms that do business online will find themselves under pressure to detail how information entered into a website is used. And because the bill's definition of spyware is extremely general, a recent report from the Center for Democracy and Technology argues that it is likely to set a precedent covering all future online privacy issues.