House Passes I-SPY Act

By Eric Goldman

Internet Spyware (I-SPY) Prevention Act of 2007 (HR 1525)

The House passed the I-SPY Act, sending it on to the Senate. This is the House’s third time passing anti-spyware legislation. The past two years, the House passed the SPY Act, only to have the bill die in the Senate. We’ll see what the Senate does this year.

As regular readers know, I’ve opposed just about every anti-spyware/anti-adware law proposed/enacted. So, it may surprise you that I think the House’s passage of I-SPY is good news. This doesn’t mean that I-SPY is necessary or even wise. From my perspective, I-SPY’s main operative provisions overlap existing provisions in the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act. Thus, I don’t think the law creates any new limitations, which makes the law a harmless/ineffective trifle.

However, I-SPY is good news because it’s unlikely the House and Senate will pass two anti-spyware laws this session (and perhaps for a very long time). Thus, I-SPY may displace further action on the SPY Act, which is positive because the SPY Act is a terrible bill. The SPY Act tries to codify a set of bad practices and banish them; but, the practices targeted by the SPY Act aren’t universally bad, and the technological specificity of the SPY Act will render it useless in the face of new technology, social practices and business practices. So I’m hoping that the Senate takes up I-SPY, passes it, and closes this chapter on Congressional efforts to regulate spyware. They have plenty of other important things to worry about.