IAB to Congress: Protect access to free Web content

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The Interactive Advertising Bureau testified a few weeks ago before the House Consumer Protection Subcommittee warning Congress that proposed legislative solutions around spyware could do more harm than good.

H.R. 964, also known as the SPY ACT, is intended to target surreptitiously downloaded software, otherwise referred to as "spyware." While the goal is well-intended, the proposed legislation could negatively impact the online and interactive advertising industry and, ultimately, a consumer's access to free online information, entertainment and unparalleled products and services.

The IAB, representing more than 300 leading interactive companies, applauds Congress for its efforts to rid the Internet of purveyors of spyware, as they erode consumer confidence and undermine online advertising, which has proved to be one of the Internet's economic underpinnings.

Spyware, unlike valid online advertising models, can infect consumers' personal computers with malicious programs that, for example, steal sensitive information like online banking log-in and passwords.

We believe this legislation deserves a fresh look by this new Congress. We, therefore, have urged the subcommittee to consider three key factors.

First, any legislative solution must be technology neutral. Given the astonishing rate at which technology advances, legislative attempts to regulate it have proven difficult to craft and often result in unintended consequences. Nobody wants legislation that will stifle improvements in the technology of the future.

Second, rather than regulate the technology itself, Congress should seek to regulate the abuses of the technology. By focusing its efforts to crack down on specific bad behavior, we firmly believe Congress can achieve real progress in the fight against spyware.

Lastly, legislators should acknowledge the great progress made by the Federal Trade Commission and state enforcement authorities in recent years. These agencies have brought an increasingly greater number of complaints against spyware companies and, through their law enforcement activities and settlements, have provided legitimate industry actors with clear guidelines on what is and what is not acceptable under existing law.

As digital media consumption grows, the interactive industry will be increasingly responsive to consumers and devoted to protecting their privacy, while delivering new, innovative services that improve their lives.

Industry self-regulation has played a significant part in defining the rules of the road for legitimate downloadable software. The IAB looks forward to helping ensure that consumers receive the richest, most relevant Internet experience.

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