FTC Releases Staff Report on Spyware Workshop

A Federal Trade Commission report suggests technological solutions to spyware.

The Federal Trade Commission has released a staff report summarizing the issues and drawing some conclusions from its April 2004 workshop, “Monitoring Software on Your PC: Spyware, Adware, and Other Software.” The report, a transcript of the day-long session, a list of participants and their presentations, and comments filed with the Commission can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/spyware/index.htm 

Based on discussions at the workshop and more than 750 comments submitted to supplement the workshop record, the FTC staff has concluded that spyware is a real and growing problem and that spyware can impair the operation of computers and create substantial privacy and security risks for consumers’ information.

According to the report, the FTC staff also has concluded that the problems caused by spyware can be reduced if the private sector and the government take action. The report suggests that technological solutions – firewalls, anti-spyware software, and improved browsers and operating systems – can provide significant protection to consumers from the risks related to spyware. The report recommends that industry identify what constitutes spyware and how information about spyware should be disclosed to consumers; expand efforts to educate consumers about spyware risks; and assist law enforcement. The report further recommends that the government increase criminal and civil prosecution under existing laws of those who distribute spyware and increase efforts to educate consumers about the risks of spyware.

“The FTC workshop provided valuable insight into the nature of spyware, the problems it causes, and potential solutions for those problems. Addressing the problems associated with spyware will require a coordinated and sustained effort by the private sector and government officials,” the report states.

Copies of the report are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

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