By now most computer users have become familiar with the term "spyware," largely because they or someone they know have experienced it first-hand. Computer users are increasingly finding programs on their computers that they did not know were installed and that they cannot uninstall, that create privacy problems and open security holes, that can hurt the performance and stability of their systems and that can lead them to mistakenly believe that these problems are the fault of their hardware or Internet provider. One vital component of the response to this menace has been the use of new and existing laws to prosecute spyware distributors.
In March 2004, CDT President Jerry Berman testified about spyware before the Senate Commerce Committee, highlighting the fact that several existing federal laws - Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) - could be used to target the tactics of malicious spyware distributors. He urged the Congress to provide law enforcement officials with the necessary resources to use these laws in prosecuting spyware offenses. He also noted that many states had long-standing fraud statutes that could be brought to bear on spyware distributors, and that neither the federal nor the state laws had yet been used to take action in the spyware space.