DOJ Says Lying on the Internet is a Federal Crime

By:  Brian Koenig
11/17/2011
       
DOJ Says Lying on the Internet is a Federal Crime

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is backing a controversial component of an existing computer fraud law that makes it a crime to use a fake name on Facebook or embellish your weight on an online dating profile such as eHarmony. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 25-year-old law that mainly addresses hacking, password trafficking, and computer viruses, should enforce criminal penalties for users who violate websites’ terms of service agreements, alleges the Justice Department.

In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security, federal officials deliberated over cyber threats to the country’s infrastructure and a perplexing interpretation of the law that makes lying on the Internet a crime. During the hearing, titled "Cyber Security: Protecting America’s New Frontier," the DOJ’s deputy computer crime chief Richard Downing addressed Congress, asserting that the CFAA law must allow "prosecutions based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provide[r]."

"Businesses should have confidence that they can allow customers to access certain information on the business's servers, such as information about their own orders and customer information, but that customers who intentionally exceed those limitations and obtain access to the business's proprietary information and the information of other customers can be prosecuted," said Downing’s prepared remarks.
 

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is backing a controversial component of an existing computer fraud law that makes it a crime to use a fake name on Facebook or embellish your weight on an online dating profile such as eHarmony. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 25-year-old law that mainly addresses hacking, password trafficking, and computer viruses, should enforce criminal penalties for users who violate websites’ terms of service agreements, alleges the Justice Department.

In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security, federal officials deliberated over cyber threats to the country’s infrastructure and a perplexing interpretation of the law that makes lying on the Internet a crime. During the hearing, titled "Cyber Security: Protecting America’s New Frontier," the DOJ’s deputy computer crime chief Richard Downing addressed Congress, asserting that the CFAA law must allow "prosecutions based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provide[r]."

"Businesses should have confidence that they can allow customers to access certain information on the business's servers, such as information about their own orders and customer information, but that customers who intentionally exceed those limitations and obtain access to the business's proprietary information and the information of other customers can be prosecuted," said Downing’s prepared remarks.

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