July 12, 2005, 10:37 AM — The Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC), a group of IT companies and public interest groups, is hoping to succeed where a previous vendor organization failed in tackling the global problem of spyware. The ASC released an agreed-upon draft definition of spyware Tuesday that it hopes will promote public comment and ultimately result in users becoming better educated about the dangers of spyware.
The Consortium of Anti-Spyware Technology Vendors (Coast), initially drawn from the security software vendor community, fell apart in February after a failed 16-month effort to coordinate its members' conflicting goals and an ongoing debate over admitting companies that created spyware. The ASC, convened by the Center for Democracy and Technology, has a much wider membership than Coast.
ASC member include the likes of America Online Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., along with McAfee Inc., Symantec Corp. and Trend Micro Inc., and antispyware specialist vendors Aluria Software LLC and Webroot Software Inc. The organization also numbers the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, the Cyber Security Industry Alliance and The University of California Berkeley's Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic among its members. The ASC was formed in early April, after a number of companies approached the Center for Democracy and Technology about forming a group to combat spyware. The organization's web site at http://www.antispywarecoalition.org/ went live Tuesday.
Ari Schwartz, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, has been heading up the ASC's work. He said that the new antispyware consortium had learned from Coast's experience. "The main difference between us and Coast is that we're trying to help antispyware companies communicate better together and with consumers," Schwartz said. "Coast was more about communication between antispyware companies and software publishers."
Another key differentiator from Coast is that ASC has instituted a policy of full consensus membership where everyone has to agree on bringing on new members, according to Schwartz. He's keen for the organization to include more public interest groups, pointing out that although they're not members, the National Consumer Law Center and the Consumers Union came to an ASC meeting in Washington, D.C.
Schwartz also wants ASC to become more global. "We've been contacted by a couple of companies from London," he said. Schwartz also pointed out that the group already numbers several European companies -- LavaSoft from Sweden, Safer-Networking Ltd. from Germany and, new member as of Tuesday, Panda Software from Spain. Australian firm PC Tools is also an ASC member, he added.