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Spyware – Legislation?

By D. David Dugan

We have all had to become more aware about what companies are doing to invade our privacy these days. Identity theft, frauds, and scams are happening every day and the perpetrators of these are getting more and more sophisticated.

 There are even some major corporations involved in some of this as if ethics rules for businesses don’t apply to what they might do online. People tend to think that if a company is big and well known, they must be reputable. They go so far as to think it’s safer to do business with a big company than with one that is small. These corporations take advantage of that trust.

Many people do not even know the answer to this question; “Who are the biggest distributors of pornography in this country?” The common answers are Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, and others who are well known for that distribution.

For years, General Motors owned Direct TV. Direct TV is the company that has served up more pornographic movies than any other single company. I bet they don’t discuss that at GM’s shareholder meetings. The number two purveyor of porn for years has been AT&T. They run the pay-per-view channels that are piped into even very reputable hotel chains across the country.

My point is that just because you are very familiar with a company’s name does not mean that everything they send you is to be trusted. RealPlayer is notorious for adding unwanted software and installing those programs on your computer. In the fine print of their user-agreement, which they know you do not read, you give them permission to download what they like to call third-party software.

There are many companies you know and trust that let software piggy-back on their software’s installation without you knowing it in most cases. Of course, IF you read the user-agreement and you were an attorney who could understand the way they write it, you would have known you were giving permission for this nefarious activity.

The companies that make the malicious software pay the bigger more trusted companies to add their programs to their installations, because they know they could never get you to agree to download their software directly. And of course then you would also know it was running in the background on your computer using up your resources to make them money.

Big software companies also lobby congress to make sure no laws get passed that might limit the ways they can take advantage of computer users. And beyond that, the average politician doesn’t know anything about how computers or the Internet actually works. This helps the software companies keep them in the dark on the whole issue.

Until legislation is passed that prohibits spyware, malware, adware, badware, and other data-mining software, the problem is just going to get bigger. Until we have politicians that actually pay attention to new technology, we will continue to have corporations take advantage of their naivete and take advantage of the average Internet user.

Most of the terms of service written by these company’s attorneys are worthless from a legal standpoint. The items they put into the fine print will not hold up in a legal challenge. However, the average user is not going to hire a powerful attorney and pay the expense of taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court just because someone harmed their computer or allowed their identity to be stolen.

These companies know they are safe as long as they keep congress and users in the dark. They are cockroaches and cockroaches hate the light. Write to your congressman and tell him or her that this has to stop. These companies need to be stopped from the practice of downloading anything they want from anyone willing to pay them onto your and my computer.

A simple terms of service should be required and you should get to read it BEFORE downloading or paying for any software. It should contain an easy to read section called, “Other Items Installed On Your Computer When You Install This Program.”

D. David Dugan is the president of DD&C ( and personally helps to maintain their computer support forum at as well as their Spyware Information site

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