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New Challenges for Spyware Policy

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Panel Summary

In this digital age, spyware is used by employers and parents, as well as stalkers and perpetrators of abuse. This workshop will discuss whether anti spyware policy and technology is appropriately tailored to spyware uses in the social context of abuse: misusing power and control. The essence of spyware is to spy, to monitor, to watch someone â€“ all without their knowledge. How do we identify and respond to harmful, inappropriate use? What are the challenges faced by policymakers and antispyware technology providers when dealing with abusive uses of spyware? This workshop will explore the varying opinions on spyware policy and practice as it intersects with privacy and safety.

Detailed Description

Spyware is a surveillance product that provides individuals with the power to monitor all of their own and someone elseâ€™s computer activities. Spyware technologies are available at the consumer level, and marketed for purposes of monitoring communications of employees, spouses and family members. Often these technologies are directly promoted for their stealth capabilities, explicitly stating in marketing efforts that the product documents emails and instant messages, records websites visited, and captures passwords, logins, keystrokes typed, and takes screenshots. These products are also often designed for remote installation without the computer userâ€™s consent or knowledge.

Some customers of monitoring spyware use the product to harm, control, harass, stalk, and terrify other individuals. The deceptive nature of spyware allows stalkers to use it without anyone else knowing. These uses raise privacy and safety problems, such as for victims of stalking or domestic violence.

This workshop brings together consumer advocates, regulators and industry representatives to discuss how spyware policy and technology can address this dimension of spyware harm. Technologists have to navigate detecting user consent and companies that may disagree with a designation of being potentially unwanted software or spyware. Regulators can't rely on traditional enforcement cases because the spyware providers may be distanced from the harm.

Participants will discuss how technology and enforcement can protect users from illegitimate surveillance while allowing legitimate uses to continue safely and securely.