I have written before about software that is surreptitiously installed on your PC without your knowledge, then displays pop-up ads or spies on your habits as you surf the Web. (See February 9, 2004, and May 31,2004, Plus Edition articles.) Some of these programs, although not all, will even report confidential information about you back to a central database.
Spyware and obnoxious pop-up advertising is a genealogy-related issue as well; at least two genealogy companies use or have used these products.
Their ads pop up at inappropriate times, and at least one of the companies gathers information about you. A genealogy program that you may be using can report your keystrokes back to the "home office."
The state of Utah banned such software recently. Now California Republican Mary Bono and New York Democrat Ed Towns have introduced national legislation to ban these programs. The proposed bill would force programs to inform the user before installing programs and require that spyware be easily removed. In fact, any company caught using such software installed without the user's knowledge would have to pay significant fines. It is one of several bills before Congress in response to growing concerns about spyware. Bono's and Towns' proposed legislation has already passed a significant hurdle in the race to become law, winning the backing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.
You can read more about this proposed legislation at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3818057.stm