Several universities have reported network traffic to an online company named Marketscore.com. This company asks consumers to register into its commercial program and, in return, promises faster Internet connection speeds, free prizes and free email anti-virus scanning. The commercial program inspects registrant Internet traffic prior to delivery to the intended Internet destination. Thus, your Internet behavior and possibly confidential information is available to a commercial organization. While only non-personal information is reportedly sold to third-party organizations, you should be aware that personal information, such as name, login accounts, passwords and financial account information, is intercepted and could be reviewed by an unauthorized party. While this type of service is not exactly spyware, as it requires formal registration and a privacy statement is available, users are strongly advised to consider the risk of identity theft before completing enrollment.
California recently enacted a new law to protect consumers against computer spyware. Spyware is a term that typically describes software that monitors your online activity without your knowledge or consent. Spyware can modify your computer to enable recording of your keystrokes, online shopping interests and audio/video preferences. The new California law makes it illegal for anyone to willfully or intentionally modify your computer to change security settings, collect personal information or enable remote control of the computer to spread email or viruses. This law requires that consumers be notified prior to spyware installation. The new law, named the Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act, goes into effect on January 1, 2005.