On Thursday, May 12, the National Advertising Initiative (NAI) hosted a Spyware Forum. The Forum, co-sponsored by CMOR, was broadly attended by members of the industry, government and many concerned trade associations.

The first people to speak were Lydia Parnes of the Federal Trade Commission and David Cavicke, General Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

Ms. Parnes focused on the FTC’s pre-existing authority to punish spyware installers under its anti-fraud and deceptive practices authority. Mr. Cavicke, whose staff CMOR has worked extensively with, described the challenges of defining, implementing and regulating an effective spyware bill.

These speeches were followed by four panels, detailing various types of responses to the spyware problem: legislative, technological, consumer education, and industry. These titles were meant to emphasize the notion that it’s not just the law that matters, but also the reaction in the marketplace. More specifically, it was a chance to discuss how anti-spyware software companies define and treat spyware, the potential for collateral damage on measurement applications such as cookies and panel software and finally, whether the consumer understands these programs.

Some panelists stressed the need for the industry to educate the consumer about which programs are “good” (i.e., legitimate measurement, survey and advertising research programs that ask for Personally Identifiable Information [PII], with a valid privacy policy and a promise not to sell the information), and which are “bad” (such as spyware programs that steal such PII).

CMOR can play an important role in all four of these areas. Legislatively, of course, we have worked (and will continue to work) for the most effective and most protective bill from the survey research perspective.

But beyond that, we’ve networked effectively in a far broader context. Because of our co-sponsorship of the Spyware Forum, we’re familiar with several important players at the software solution level and they understand CMOR’s Government Affairs and Respondent Cooperation activities. We now know how to get in touch with these companies and who to speak with regarding any relevant questions or concerns.

Thanks to CMOR’s Respondent Cooperation division, we are well placed to work with other groups on how to best educate Americans as to which programs they can trust and which ones should be avoided. Such activities could go a long way toward protecting the survey and advertising research programs that so many of our members rely on.

The ultimate outcome of the Spyware Forum is that our ability to confront the many aspects of spyware has greatly improved, due to the vast industry and governmental networking in which we are engaged.

The survey and marketing research profession still faces many challenges with this bill, but because of CMOR’s multifaceted connections on the issue, we’re well positioned to face those challenges.

We would like to acknowledge the extensive contributions made on the spyware topic by two of our Government Affairs Committee members—Nick Nyhan of Dynamic Logic, and Bill MacElroy of Socratic Technologies.