Fib on Facebook? U.S. Law Calls It Criminal, Critics Warn

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    Nov 17, 2011 11:13 PM GMT
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/11/17/fib-on-facebook-us-law-calls-it-criminal-critics-warn/

    Ever fib about your age on a dating site? What about on Facebook?

    These infractions could be a federal crime under an obscure 1986 anti-hacking law that was passed well before the advent of social networking sites. Advocacy groups on both sides of the aisle are now pressing lawmakers to re-write the law, to prevent an administration push to toughen penalties from treating online mischief-makers the same as criminal hackers.

    The debate centers on a law known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which has been broadened several times since 1986. Critics of the law point most frequently to a section that imposes penalties on anyone who knowingly "exceeds authorized access" on a computer to obtain information.

    "Authorized access," they warn, could refer to anything from a website's "Terms of Use" agreement to an employer's restrictions on computer use. They cite cases where federal prosecutors have charged individuals for breaching these agreements -- and question whether that standard could hold casual slip-ups on the Internet to the same standard as malicious cyber-criminal activity.

    "Now it is possible for someone to be prosecuted for violating the user agreement in a social networking site," Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said at a hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

    The hearing by a House Judiciary subcommittee marked the latest public debate in D.C. over the law.

    The Obama administration is currently pushing to increase penalties under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The Department of Justice downplays concerns about the broadness of the language, and stresses that the government is trying to deter serious cyber-threats and cyber-criminals -- such as the mass theft of credit card data.

    But Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, said it's critical that Congress make sure the law targets real criminals.

    "Hacking is a real problem," he told FoxNews.com. "But ... any effort to expand (the law) has to also insure that the law is not used to criminalize violations of terms of service."

    George Washington University Law Professor Orin Kerr testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday that as written, the law criminalizes routine computer use in a way that could implicate just about anybody.

    For instance, Kerr noted that while he lives in Arlington, Va., his Facebook profile states that he lives in Washington, D.C.

    "According to the Justice Department, I violate federal criminal law every time I log in," Kerr said. Kerr suggested tweaking the language of the law to clarify that it does not apply to people who violate "terms of service" agreements.

    The Justice Department, however, argues that the language in the law on "authorized access" should stand to give the department the tools it needs to prosecute bona fide criminals.

    "Restricting the statute in this way would make it difficult or impossible to deter and address serious insider threats through prosecution," Justice official Richard Downing said in written testimony submitted to the House Judiciary Committee.

    Downing explained that most employers have "clear and reasonable restrictions" on how sensitive computer data can be accessed by employees. The department, he said, prosecutes people who violate those rules to obtain sensitive information. Changing the law would prevent prosecution of "serious insider cases" -- for instance, a health insurance administrator accessed hundreds of thousands of worker names and Social Security numbers in 2006, and was prosecuted under this law.

    Kerr praised the Senate Judiciary Committee for recently amending the law in an attempt to narrow its scope to ensure that routine computer usage is not criminalized. The Senate committee in September approved an amendment that would exempt people whose only infraction is a violation of a user agreement.

    A House Judiciary Committee aide told FoxNews.com that the Justice Department is "concerned" about the action taken by the Senate. The House, though, has not yet taken up any proposal on the issue.

    Asked for comment, a Justice Department spokesman referred back to Downing's testimony.

    Kerr and several other groups appealed to Congress back in August to change the law. In a joint letter, they expressed concern about an "overbroad application of the law." A key concern is that by relying on terms of use agreements, the courts would effectively allow those contractual agreements to define what is and is not a criminal act.

    "If a person assumes a fictitious identify at a party, there is no federal crime," the letter said. "Yet if they assume that same identity on a social network that prohibits pseudonyms, there may again be a CFAA violation."

    The organizations on the letter included the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology and conservative groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Tax Reform.

    While defending the law, Downing pressed for increasing maximum penalties on some violations.

    He claimed cyber-crimes are still treated more delicately in U.S. law than related physical crimes. Downing, the deputy chief at the computer crime division, noted the maximum penalty for computer fraud is five years, but 20 years for mail and wire fraud.

    "Criminals from across the country and around the world are taking advantage of the relative anonymity provided by the Internet to compromise our critical infrastructure, obtain trade secrets, intrude into bank accounts, and steal the personal and financial information of ordinary Americans," Downing said. "Federal law needs to more effectively deter this spreading criminality."

    Though the Justice Department has used the law to go after those who violate terms of service agreements, its track record is spotty. In perhaps the most famous case in recent history, a federal judge threw out the 2008 convictions against Missouri mother Lori Drew. Drew was prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for creating a fake MySpace page, in violation of MySpace's terms, and using it to harass a teenage girl who later killed herself.
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    Nov 18, 2011 12:13 AM GMT
    In my opinion, which matters as much as any reporters' opinion branded with Fox News, this is anti-government hype in an attempt to frighten us about something that will never come to pass.

    Of course any push by the Obama administration to enforce existing laws is viewed as a threat to Freedom, Gun Lovers, and Christians.

    I'm not saying administrations haven't abused citizens in the past. Because, oh fer god's sake, who doesn't view the Defense of Marriage Act as a government intrusion upon individual rights? But worrying whether Big Brother will be going after grandma for misrepresenting her age on a dating website is--how can I put this where I won't offend Fox News readers--bullshit.
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    Nov 18, 2011 12:15 AM GMT
    Oh, and another thing whenever Fox News cites some critic: the critic usually works within their own walls, despite how they're actually credited by the Fox New chyrons.
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    Nov 18, 2011 4:02 AM GMT
    This has nothing to do with Fox News. I read about this story several days ago on CNET. The DOJ wants to make violating a Terms of Service agreement a criminal act, despite the fact that no one reads them and they are completely incomprehensible.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-57324779-281/doj-lying-on-match.com-needs-to-be-a-crime/
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    Nov 18, 2011 5:30 AM GMT
    This is why the USA is bankrupt. Laws are created without any thought of a funding source to implement the laws. The middle class is already working 5 months a year just to pay taxes. So think next time , " Do i really want this law enough that I am willing to pay for it out of pocket" . Can we really afford anymore laws? No. Somehow I have survived all this time without this protection.
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    Nov 18, 2011 5:56 AM GMT
    This takes us just one step closer to Orwell's 1984 and Big Brother. Combine that with Biblical prophecies in the book of Revelation and it's going to be hell on earth... literally.
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    Nov 18, 2011 6:33 AM GMT
    DudeInNOVA saidThis has nothing to do with Fox News. I read about this story several days ago on CNET. The DOJ wants to make violating a Terms of Service agreement a criminal act, despite the fact that no one reads them and they are completely incomprehensible.


    I stand corrected.
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    Nov 18, 2011 1:45 PM GMT
    NakedBudd saidThis takes us just one step closer to Orwell's 1984 and Big Brother. Combine that with Biblical prophecies in the book of Revelation and it's going to be hell on earth... literally.


    or combine it with something equally prescient but more consistent : The Calvin & Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book - Total Hell on Earth. but more amusing.



    (
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 18, 2011 3:28 PM GMT
    If Bush had done this, the conservatives would be on here selling us that its no big deal...
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 18, 2011 3:30 PM GMT
    So my days of being a muscled 24 year old with 8 uncut inches are over?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 18, 2011 3:42 PM GMT
    Dallasfan824 saidSo my days of being a muscled 24 year old with 8 uncut inches are over?
    Yep, they were over in 1986. And judging by the age in your profile, that's actually correct. icon_lol.gif
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    Nov 18, 2011 3:45 PM GMT
    The men behind the profiles on RealJock could backlog the courts for years.icon_razz.gif
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    Nov 18, 2011 3:48 PM GMT
    paulflexes said
    Dallasfan824 saidSo my days of being a muscled 24 year old with 8 uncut inches are over?
    Yep, they were over in 1986. And judging by the age in your profile, that's actually correct. icon_lol.gif


    The only part I can actually lay claim too is that I was 24 once icon_sad.gif
  • HndsmKansan

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    Nov 18, 2011 3:59 PM GMT
    mickeytopogigio saidIn my opinion, which matters as much as any reporters' opinion branded with Fox News, this is anti-government hype in an attempt to frighten us about something that will never come to pass.
    .



    Mike, I just had to start laughing when I read your response.... good first comment for sure.. LOL

    icon_lol.gif
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    Nov 18, 2011 4:55 PM GMT
    DudeInNOVA saidThis has nothing to do with Fox News. I read about this story several days ago on CNET. The DOJ wants to make violating a Terms of Service agreement a criminal act, despite the fact that no one reads them and they are completely incomprehensible.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-57324779-281/doj-lying-on-match.com-needs-to-be-a-crime/


    Actually, it has everything to do with Fox News. Read Fox's article, then read c/net's article. Notice how Fox News calls out the Obama Adminstration?

    This has more to do with Murdoch's monkeys continuing to slam the "There's too much damn government regulation" mantra down the throats of the mentally challenged who are incapable of reading or watching anything other than what Fox delivers to them:
    Foxnews.com: "The Obama administration is currently pushing to increase penalties under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act."

    Okay, while that is true, it isn't exactly clear in the Fox News article just how the DOJ plans to pursue this. If you read Fox News' article, it's as if Obama himself is going to be prosecuting everyone who misrepresents themselves on the Web. This isn't the case at all. Of course, the way the law is currently written leaves us all wondering what in the hell is going on, and why the DOJ is pursuing this now.

    The c/net article offers more insight with a simple quote from Downing:

    "In a kind of pre-emptive attack against Kerr's proposed fixes, the Justice Department's Downing says the CFAA properly criminalizes 'improper' online activities.

    '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,' Downing's prepared remarks say."
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    Nov 18, 2011 5:10 PM GMT
    Have you guys forgotten Ed Meese already? It could happen again.
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    Nov 18, 2011 5:16 PM GMT
    LOL comments about Fox News. Obama administration happens to be the one in power at the moment, so there appears to be some relevance. You can assert that Fox is over-emphasizing the administration, but you can also assert the others de-emphasize the administration. Based on your perspective, and indicates the benefits in getting news from multiple sources.
  • CuriousJockAZ

    Posts: 19136

    Nov 18, 2011 5:18 PM GMT
    Dallasfan824 saidSo my days of being a muscled 24 year old with 8 uncut inches are over?


    Iceblink saidThe men behind the profiles on RealJock could backlog the courts for years.icon_razz.gif




    icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif
  • stratavos

    Posts: 1831

    Nov 18, 2011 5:24 PM GMT
    CuriousJockAZ said
    Dallasfan824 saidSo my days of being a muscled 24 year old with 8 uncut inches are over?


    Iceblink saidThe men behind the profiles on RealJock could backlog the courts for years.icon_razz.gif




    icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif


    well I'd expand that to every social based website, including message boards icon_sad.gif
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    Nov 18, 2011 11:27 PM GMT
    why, i am 17...