House OKs tougher spyware penalties

Bills call for jail sentences of up to 2 years, millions in fines

The House Monday voted to establish new penalties for purveyors of Internet "spyware" that disables users' computers and secretly monitors their activities.

By overwhelming majorities, the House passed two bills that stiffen jail sentences and establish multimillion-dollar fines for those who use secret surveillance programs to steal credit-card numbers, sell software or commit other crimes.

Spyware has emerged as a major headache for computer users over the last several years.It can sap computing power, crash machines and bury users under a blizzard of unwanted ads. Scam artists use spyware to capture passwords, account numbers and other sensitive data.

"Consumers have a right to know and have a right to decide who has access to their highly personal information that spyware can collect," said California Republican Rep. Mary Bono, who sponsored one of the bills.

View: MSNBC

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