The U.S. House of Representatives will vote as soon as next week on a measure to crack down on deceptive “spyware” that hides in users’ computers and secretly monitors their activities, key lawmakers said on Wednesday.
House leaders will combine two spyware bills and bring them to the House floor for a yes-or-no vote, said Rep. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The bill is expected to pass by a wide margin thanks to the backing of high-tech companies like Yahoo Inc. and Dell Inc., he said.
“I think that’ll help us to get close to 435 votes when this bill comes up on the floor,” Barton said on a conference call.
Spyware can sap computing power, crash machines and bury users under a blizzard of unwanted ads. It can capture passwords, credit-card numbers and other sensitive data.
The bill approved by Barton’s committee would require software makers to notify people before loading new programs on their machines that can collect information about them. Violators could face millions of dollars in fines.
It will be combined with another bill, passed by the Judiciary Committee, that would establish criminal penalties for those who use spyware to commit identity theft or other crimes.
The two bills will be combined in the Rules Committee, then taken up for a vote under a procedure that does not allow opponents to suggest changes, Barton said. It will require a two-thirds majority for passage.
In the Senate, the Commerce Committee approved a similar bill on Wednesday.
A Barton aide said there were few substantial differences between the two bills.