The way the Justice Department wants to interpret a current law, lying on the Internet would amount to a crime.
Richard Downing, deputy chief of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section at the Department of Justice, argued that in order to properly protect the country, the part of the CFAA that says a person must exceed their “authorized access” to break the law should include a violation of the terms of service.
This is how DOJ went after Lori Drew, the woman who used a MySpace account to pose as a teenage boy in order to torment a girl who was bullying her daughter. The girl later committed suicide, which led to calls for Drew’s prosecution, even though it wasn’t clear that she had committed any crime. The charges were tossed by a judge, so Congress and DOJ want to give prosecutors more power. But in the name of protecting intellectual property and national security. Here’s how Downing put it in his testimony.
“These are just a few cases, but this tool is used routinely. The plain meaning of the term ‘exceeds authorized access,’ as used in the CFAA, prohibits insiders from using their otherwise legitimate access to a computer system to engage in improper and often malicious activities. We believe that Congress intended to criminalize such conduct, and we believe that deterring it continues to be important. Because of this, we are highly concerned about the effects of restricting the definition of ‘exceeds authorized access’ in the CFAA to disallow prosecutions based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provider.”
The Volokh Conspriacy’s Orin Kerr also testified.
“In the Justice Department’s view, the CFAA criminalizes conduct as innocuous as using a fake name on Facebook or lying about your weight in an online dating profile. That situation is intolerable. Routine computer use should not be a crime. Any cybersecurity legislation that this Congress passes should reject the extraordinarily broad interpretations endorsed by the United States Department of Justice.”
I think we should just bar Congress from passing any law related to the Internet.