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Gordon H. SmithSenator
STATEMENT OF SENATOR GORDON H. SMITH
CHAIRMAN, SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRADE, TOURISM,
AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
October 5, 2005
As chairman of the Subcommittee on Trade, Tourism, and Economic Development, which has primary jurisdiction over the Federal Trade Commission and online-privacy issues, I have a deep interest in spyware and have continually worked on these issues to ensure protection of consumers and businesses.
The Federal Trade Commission also has a responsibility to protect the American consumer from all types of fraud and deception, including spyware.
According to a recent survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance, 93% of people feel that spyware is a serious problem, and 61% believe that Congress should be doing more to combat this problem. Consumers have now downloaded free versions of the two most widely used anti-spyware programs over 45 million times.
Although spyware has been used for many deceitful purposes, including theft of personal information, the technology behind it is being used towards legitimate ends as well. I strongly believe that a total ban of an entire category of technology or product can have many unintended and serious consequences. If the definition of spyware becomes too broad, legislation adopted in haste might not take into account the evolution of future technologies, and in turn, it could stifle innovation.
I believe we must limit the abusive and deceitful practices while allowing industry the ability to build-on and improve existing technologies. To that end, I introduced the US Safe Web Act to expand the Federal Trade Commission's current authority to enforce existing laws and allow the agency to coordinate with foreign law enforcement officials to prosecute deceptive online activities. I have also co-sponsored legislation with Senator Allen to increase the FTC=s current authority to enforce existing laws to prevent deceitful acts of spyware.
We need to give the FTC the necessary tools to go after the individuals who are already violating current federal law. We need to address the most egregious activities and behaviors online without placing unnecessary restrictions on the entire technology industry.
Americans must be proactive in keeping our high-tech industry on the cutting edge in the world market. I believe that an appropriate balance can be found between limiting the illegitimate use of existing technologies and allowing for the technology industry to grow, expand, and innovate.
As we continue to address this issue, I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to confront this growing problem appropriately and in a timely manner.
Hearing on Spyware
Senator Conrad Burns
October 5, 2005
Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to appear today. Let me open by thanking Senator Smith for taking the initiative to chair this hearing. I chaired a hearing on Spyware in the Full Committee last May, and our panel of witnesses that day consisted of consumer groups and industry experts. Today we will get a chance to hear from the Federal Trade Commission, which has, and will continue to have, a very important role in anti-spyware enforcement actions. So the two hearings are complementary in that respect, and will help us learn more about the problem of spyware.
Spyware, as we all know, is an increasingly dangerous threat to our everyday activities in cyberspace. As was the case with Spam several years ago, I believe the solution lies in the right mix of technical solutions and tougher legislation. Both will be necessary to make a meaningful dent in the quantity and the types of malicious code that gets downloaded into the private computers of businesses and citizens – without their consent.
We also have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, by making many ordinary and positive types of online business practices illegal. The area of adware in particular is an important gray area to keep an eye on: how exactly on-line advertisements are served up to users, and what kind of consent is most appropriate. Most adware models are good for cyberspace, because it is important to have a robust and responsive advertising component for on-line businesses. But, when it comes to installing software on private computers, we have to make sure we don’t allow some of the more unscrupulous players out there to spoil the field for all the good actors that are just trying to make cyberspace more efficient.
So I thank Chairman Majoras for coming up today, and I look forward to hearing her testimony. And I thank Senator Smith again for setting up today’s hearing.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Deborah Platt MajorasChairmanFederal Trade Commission