New Cybersecurity Law: Much Ado About Nothing?

By Brian Lynch The United States Congress has begun the process of updating cybersecurity laws contained in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986. Through a Presidential initiative, penalties for violations are being stiffened. Like most things involving Congress, the proposed changes have come under scrutiny and some criticism. The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by law professor Orin Kerr describing how the law has expanded over the years beyond computer hacking. Kerr noted the law has been used for criminal prosecutions and civil actions for merely violating terms of service agreements of websites. Kerr paints a bleak picture in which abuse could become rampant, namely being prosecuted for lying about one's age or weight on social media sites. Kerr's piece struck a nerve with many readers. One commenter linked to a response from the law firm Butler, Wooten, & Fryhofer disputing many of the "doomsday scenarios" painted by Kerr. Forbes magazine also ran an article on its website titled No, Faking Your Name On Facebook Will Not Be Felony. Coincidently or not, Senator Chuck Grassely filed an amendment to the bill the day Kerr's piece ran. The proposed amendment would strike liability for violating terms of service of websites from the law. Grassely stated in a press release: "The Grassley-Franken amendment we'll be offering today simply clarifies that the definition of "exceeds authorized access" in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act does not include violations of internet terms of service agreements or non-government employment agreements restricting computer access. It's a common sense amendment that helps clean up some of the expansive provisions of our criminal code." Kerr may have pulled a chicken little, but his underlying point is valid. Careful consideration is needed when Congress retro fits old laws to modern technology. Photo "padlock" courtesy of Flickr user Zebble , licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Share this: Twitter Like this: Be the first to like this post.

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