Spyware is one of the Internet's most prevalent threats. A 2005 study conducted by Webroot found that 2/3 of personal computers were infected with spyware. Computer users are fighting programs that sneak onto their computers and surreptitiously monitor their online activities, disrupt their computer system's performance and stability, and make it difficult to remove or disable these behaviours.



Legislation Relevant to Spyware in Canada

Personal Information Protection and Electronic documents Act (PIPEDA)

PIPEDA is the federal act that regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in Canada by the private commercial sector. It applies to federally regulated commercial sectors like the airline industry, as well as to commercial activities in all provinces except for Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec. Those provinces each have commercial sector legislation that is substantially similar to PIPEDA as recognized by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Competition Act

The Canadian Competition Act forbids the use of deceptive practices to promote the supply or use of a product or business interest by knowingly or recklessly making false and misleading representations to the public in a material respect.

Canadian Criminal Code sections 380, 342.1(1), 430, 184

Canadian Criminal Code sections 380, 342.1(1), 430, 184 on fraud, unauthorized use of computers and mischief respectively apply to spyware.

Consumer Protection Laws

Different provinces have enacted legislation to control unfair business practices. These unfair business practices are similar from province to province and generally prohibit false, misleading or deceptive representation to customers. These laws generally provide two options to the consumer: 1) the consumer can bring a claim to a consumer business practice authority or 2) the consumer can bring a private action.

* New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Territories do no have applicable statutes that would prohibit vendors from making false, misleading, or deceptive representation to customers.

Canadian Government Resources

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Resource Center

The Privacy Commissioner's Resource Center links to provincial privacy legislation, oversight offices and government organizations.

Competition Bureau

The Competition Bureau is the Canadian Government's independent law enforcement agency responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Competition Act. The Competition Act prohibits making false and misleading representations about products and services to the public.

Electronic Commerce Branch of Industry Canada

The electronic commerce branch is responsible for the adoption and development of e-commerce in Canada, including the federal government's approach to spyware.

Non-profit Organizations

Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)

CDT is a private non-profit organizations based in Washington D.C. committed to the protection of democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age. The site provides current information on American legislative developments and policies concerning spyware.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

The EFF is a group of lawyers, technologists, volunteers, and visionaries located in San Francisco, California, working together to protect the rights of websurfers everywhere. The site contains a "miniLinks" archive on spyware and adware and "deepLinks" which provide noteworthy news form around the net on spyware and other issues.

Public Interest Advocacy Center (PIAC)

PIAC is a "Canadian non-profit organization that provides legal and research services on behalf of consumer interests and, in particular, vulnerable consumer interests, concerning the provision of important public services." The Office of Consumer Affairs of Industry Canada has granted PIAC funds to research and write a report on spyware and its state in Canada.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The W3C is an international consortium whose mission is to achieve "web interoperability" through the creation of web standards and guidelines that allow hardware and software to work together to access the web and avoid its fragmentation.

National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA)

The NCSA is a public-private partnership operating in Washington D.C. focusing on promoting cyber security and safe behavior online. They sponsor the following website www.staysafeonline.info to keep home users, educators and small business updated on how to protect their computers and networks. Check the top ten cyber security tips on this site.

Internet Education Foundation (IEF)

The IEF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public and policymakers about the potential of a decentralized global Internet to promote democracy, communications, and commerce. It sponsors the educational project GetNetWise which is a coalition of Internet industry corporations and public interest organizations "who want Internet users to be just one click away from the resources they need to make informed decisions about their family's use of the Internet." The GetNetWise website has a spotlight on spyware link on its page with useful information.


StopBadware.org is a "Neighborhood Watch" campaign aimed at fighting "badware" - spyware, malware, and other potentially unwanted technologies. Harvard Law's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute are leading this effort with the support of several prominent tech companies, including Google, Lenovo, and Sun Microsystems. Consumer Reports WebWatch is serving as an unpaid special advisor.

Non-Canadian Government Resources


Australian Department of Telecommunications, Information Technology and the Arts

This site contains the outcome of the legislative framework review on spyware in Australia. The result was that the "most serious and culpable uses of spyware were offenses under exisiting legislations." This site contains the coverage of particular laws in Australia to problems and threats caused by spyware.

Bill 2005 in Australia

Spyware Bill 2005 was introduced by Democrat technology spokesman Senator Brian Greig in Australia. It is being pushed forward and is currently being debated in the Senate (May 12, 2005).

United States

FTC Consumer Alert: Spyware

This link provides useful hints and tips on how to identify spyware installed in your machine and how to prevent it.

FTC's Information Security Website

This page contains general information on computer security and the safeguarding of personal information. It is a good source to check regularly for updates on spyware and other issues.

Federal Trade Commission Staff Report Spyware Workshop: Monitoring Software on your PC: Spyware, Adware and other Software, March 2005.

This report provides a comprehensive overview of different aspects of spyware in the United States such as definitions, effects, industry and government responses to the spyware phenomenon.

International Resources

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - The OECD is an international organization with thirty member countries and active relationships with seventy other countries. The OECD is promoting a "culture of security" where awareness, education, information sharing and training are the principles behind the guidelines to secure information systems and networks. The governments play a key role in the implementation of these guidelines. A search on the OECD's website for "spyware" will poduce a number of relevant documents.

Spyware Removal Tools

Software vendors offer anti-spyware tools to permit users to scan their computers for recognized spyware and remove it.

Canadian ISPs offer spyware protection for a monthly fee and others included it in the Internet service itself.

For spyware removal tools provided by American ISPs, visit the NetGetWise website.

Other Resources

AOL/NCSA Online Safety Study, Conducted by America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance, October 2004

This survey was carried out in 329 homes that use Internet services and it focused on "Security Perceptions and Risks." The key areas covered were virus protection, spyware, file sharing programs, firewalls, wireless access and parental controls.

Sunbelt Spyware Research Center

This site contains a "Spyware Library Browser" where you can check under different categories for specific threats or search the complete listing for one category of security threats such as spyware, adware, key-loggers and others categories.

Spyware Workshop: Monitoring Software on your PC: Spyware, Adware and other Software

The Federal Trade Commission sponsored this one day workshop in the United States and on April 19, 2004. The following link provides information on presentations that took place and other important links.

"Spyware": Research, Testing, Legislation, and Suits at Benjamin Edelman's website

Benjamin Edelman is a PHD candidate at the Department of Economics at Harvard University and a student at the Harvard Law School. His research agenda includes methods and effects of spyware and installation methods.

Further Reading