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Computer Crime Law reaches the Supreme Court

Let’s catch up on the oral arguments heard this week by the Supreme Court, which are examining the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.    Who is fighting it out?  Let’s check with Protocol, and quote

“On one side are groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, who argue that expanding the interpretation of the CFAA could make research conducted by cybersecurity experts and journalists alike illegal, paving the way for increased legal action by tech companies. On the other are groups like the Electronic Privacy Information Center and a raft of prominent privacy scholars who emphasize that the case before the court involves a law enforcement official using a government database to commit a serious privacy breach — behavior they say the law does and should prohibit.

At the center of the case is a former Georgia police officer named Nathan Van Buren, who was convicted in 2017 of violating the CFAA after he accepted money to look up a woman’s license plate in a law enforcement database and was caught in an FBI sting. The CFAA, which was enacted in 1986, made it a crime to knowingly access a computer “without authorization or exceeding authorized access,” a frustratingly vague standard that has been interpreted differently by the courts. Van Buren successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to take up his case, arguing that he didn’t violate the CFAA because he did have authorized access to use the system; he merely used it for unauthorized purposes, just as millions of Americans, say, use their work computers to check sports scores.”

The Justices asked questions, focusing on the uncertainty and many computer law experts are now cautiously optimistic that the Court will rule that the law should be interpreted narrowly.

Why do we care?

It should be a bit obvious why we care, as how this law is interpreted will define legal versus illegal use of any computer system.   Where “unauthorized access” lies matters for any business, so this is a big deal.    No ruling yet, so this is bringing you up to speed on the conversation. 

Source: Protocol

Source: The Washington Post