from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gabe Valenzuela
(512) 463-0121
February 4, 2005

SENATOR ZAFFIRINI FILES INTERNET LEGISLATION

(AUSTIN) -- Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed legislation on Wednesday (Feb. 2) aimed at protecting the financial and personal information of persons who use the Internet. Senate Bills 326 and 327 by Zaffirini will create civil and criminal penalties for illegal spyware and phishing acts.

"The Internet has modernized just about everything that we do, whether it be managing a banking account or communicating with a loved one on the other side of the world," Senator Zaffirini said. "Unfortunately, the criminal mind also has kept pace with technological advances. This legislation will update state laws to protect important information that criminals seek to obtain from Internet users."

SB 326 will create an offense and penalty for using the Internet to obtain identifying information. The practice of obtaining this information is commonly referred to as "phishing." Phishers use deceptive e-mails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames, passwords and social security numbers. By utilizing well known brand names of banks, credit unions and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince recipients to provide financial information.

"Although I have not fallen victim to phishing, I have received fraudulent emails asking me to divulge private information," Senator Zaffirini said. "These emails are so well designed, that it is understandable how an Internet user could mistakenly provide important financial data."

The other bill, SB 327, targets spyware. This technology, often a computer program or software virus, secretly gathers information about a person or organization without their knowledge. Spyware often gets in a computer as the result of person downloading or installing a program that has built-in spyware technology. Continually receiving pop-up ads is often the result of spyware activity. The gathered information can also be relayed or sold to advertisers or other interested parties.

"These are important privacy issues, especially for the home Internet user," Senator Zaffirini said. "These bills also help new Internet users. Having to wade through countless pop-up ads, junk and deceptive emails discourages new users. Targeting phishing and spyware will help more people enjoy the advantages the Internet has to offer."

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