The U.S. House of Representatives moved on its anti-spyware bill Wednesday by unanimously voting it out of committee and sending it to the House floor for consideration.
In a vote of 43-0, the Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Spy Act (Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act), but only after one final amendment that specifically called out "Web bugs" (which also go by "Web beacons") as legal. Wednesday's amendment also legalized persistent, embedded advertisements, something that was forbidden in earlier editions of the bill.
Earlier this year, the committee had modified the Spy Act to allow all cookies after Web advertisers and others voiced concern about banning such tracking tools.
The legislation would prohibit a wide range of spyware- and adware-style activities, including keyboard logging and home page hijacking, and forbid practices such as collecting information without the user's consent or intentionally diverting a browser from its intended destination. Violators could face civil fines up to $3 million.
"This bill aims to empower consumers to help safeguard themselves from nefarious privacy invasions without harming the growth of legitimate technology," claimed Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), the original sponsor of the bill, in a statement. "We have been working to improve and refine this bill to ensure that what is passed into law strikes the right balance."
The revised bill also prohibits so called "evil twin" attacks, where a hacker creates a bogus wireless hotspot with the intent of collecting passwords and other personal and/or financial information.
Last year the House passed a similar bill by an overwhelming 399-1 vote, but the Senate refused to consider the bill, or to move its own SPYBLOCK bill out of committee.