The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

I was listening to the Reply All podcast today and they had an interesting episode regarding the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. I knew some basics about it, but never knew how general and open-ended it really was. It really is disturbing to me that people could be charged for simply violating the terms of service on a site like Facebook. It’s highly unlikely that the government will go after you for it, but it’s still scary to know that the potential is there.

I mention this because it’s disturbing to me that this law doesn’t get the attention it seems to deserve. We’re not talking about evil “hackers” here going in and stealing credit card and social security numbers. This law can be used to go after people for petty mischief, acts that one would generally just shrug off are now being charged as felonies.

After Aaron Swartz died, there was a push to narrow the law to have it make more sense to what its intent really was. The amendment, nicknamed Aaron’s Law would have decriminalized terms of service violations and help prevent people from being charged criminally for something that shouldn’t belong in the courts. Unfortunately, this bill stalled in Congress in 2014.

I would love for this to be revisited by Congress, but given the current atmosphere in D.C., I kind of doubt it will happen. One can hope though.