Bono: Spyware Bill No Threat to Cookies

H.R. bill 29, a.k.a. the SPY ACT, was never meant to interfere with the serving of third-party ads on Web sites, said a spokesperson for California Rep. Mary Bono, the bill’s chief sponsor. She said industry confusion over the interpretation of the SPY ACT’s cookies provision may lead the committee examining the bill to clarify it in some way.

The spokesperson, Kimberly Pencille, said the edited bill wouldn’t necessarily explicitly exempt cookies, but the section could be “strengthened” or even removed completely.

Many online advertising firms have expressed concern the Bono bill’s somewhat vague language means curtains for some technologies that support online advertising. Behavioral targeting, in particular, appears threatened by the bill as it’s currently written.

Pastille said the committee now examining the bill wants to ensure it restricts only software that causes a computer to process data. Text and data cookies that support most third-party advertising would not be outlawed. Therefore, Pencille said, the bill wouldn’t endanger behavioral targeting and other network advertising technologies.

“The goal of the bill is to protect the consumer,” said Pencille. “It’s not meant to limit the growth of technology or create a headache for any of these companies.”

The federal “Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act” was first introduced in 2003 as bill HR 2929. It passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives in October, 2004, but didn’t reach a vote in the Senate before the end of the 108th Congress. Representative Bono reintroduced it to the House early last month.

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