Monday, November 14, 2011

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CCFA)

If I was an attorney (I am) and if I worked for an ISP (I kinda do), and I was feeling a little punchy...what if I decided to write into my terms of service for my organization that any user going to Google was a violation of their terms of service and their Internet access would be shut off.

The Federal government says that if a user violates the terms of service of their ISP, then they've committed hacking under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and could face jail time. This is what happened to Lori Drew. She had a role in a cyberbullying incident that led a teenage girl to commit suicide. She was found guilty but the verdict was thrown out because the CCFA was "constitutionally vague."

What the CCFA has done, then, is to give a group of unelected lawyers the power to create law out of thin air. Go to Google, you're a hacker. Send an email with the word, llama, in it you're a hacker. Lie about your age in an online dating ad, you're a hacker. Wait, that last one is already in most terms of service. So that makes what percentage of Internet enabled Americans hackers?

This is what George Washington University Law provessor Orin Kerr who will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, according to an article in Wired. He will argue that the CCFA should be amended. The problem is, essentially, is that "Hacking" is hard to define. This is only made more difficult because there are lots of things that you can do with a computer that aren't necessarily intended, but the user really has no way of knowing what was intended or authorized.

Should people really be worried about facing jail time for not reading the software license or terms of service on their computers?

I'm thinking not.

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