The House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that would impose specific penalties for the fraudulent use of spyware but would not impose new requirements on software makers.
House lawmakers approved a bill providing for up to five years in jail for those who use spyware to commit fraud but stops short of regulatory requirements sought by some lawmakers.
"It targets the worst forms of spyware without unduly burdening technological innovation," said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, chief sponsor of the bill which passed on a voice vote.
Spyware has emerged as a major headache for computer users. It can end up on users' computers through a virus or through downloaded games or other free programs off the Internet.
The bill passed by the House on Tuesday is supported by the software industry. It omits provisions in competing legislation endorsed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that would require software distributors and advertisers to clearly notify and obtain consent from consumers before programs can be loaded onto a computer.
Lofgren said those types of requirements could hurt innovation and technology investment.
"Focusing on bad actors and criminal conduct is preferable to an approach that criminalizes technology or imposes notice- or consent-type requirements," Lofgren said.