Spyware, adware, cookies and malware are all new names that have sprung up to describe what happens when websites, hackers and others deposit information or programs on your computer without your consent. How do you rid yourself of these maladies? Apart from the software designed to combat them, there's a new sheriff in town.
Perhaps not so new. It's the law of trespass. As a law, it's been around since fences were invented. Now, it's being applied to computers in a most unusual way. You're probably most familiar with the law of trespass based on signs you've seen posted on property and real estate. The law is also applied to personal property, such as the theft of personal property, and attorneys are arguing that is exactly what happens to your hard drive and computer when these software maladies attack it. Courts so far have upheld the idea, although the cases have not been addressed in the appellate system.
It's probably too early to tell whether the idea will grab hold, but attorneys are advancing a number of other legal theories in case trespass doesn't hold, such as statutory remedies, including the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The common law theories, of which trespass is one, also include negligence, tampering and invasion of privacy.
The theories abound, but the most common of all is: "Where there is a wrong, there is a remedy." I don't know about your computer, but for mine, the remedy can't come soon enough. If I see one more pop-up ad ...