Facebook Abusing Computer Crime Law To Block Useful Service
from the it's-not-hacking dept
Last year, we wrote about a bizarre lawsuit where Facebook sued Power.com, a website that tried to aggregate various social networks into a single interface. That could be pretty useful. Facebook didn't like it and sued. But just because Facebook doesn't like something, it doesn't make it illegal. What if users want to access Facebook that way? Facebook tossed out a variety of legal theories, including the idea that this was criminal hacking, because it was unauthorized access. How is it unauthorized? Well, here Facebook got creative. It has, hidden within its terms of service the note that accessing Facebook through "automatic means" is forbidden. Facebook says that Power.com's aggregator is "automatic means" (which seems questionable), and thus accessing Facebook via Power.com is no longer authorized. Since the access is not authorized, then it's... unauthorized access, aka hacking, and a crime under California's computer crime statute.
The EFF has now filed an amicus brief in the case, pointing out that this would be a ridiculous stretch of California's computer crime law:
"California's computer crime law is aimed at penalizing computer trespassers," said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. "Users who choose to give their usernames and passwords to aggregators like Power Ventures are not trespassing. Under Facebook's theory, millions of Californians who disregard or don't read terms of service on the websites they visit could face criminal liability. Also, any Internet company could use this argument as a hammer to prevent its users from easily leaving the service as well as to shut down innovators and competitors."Hopefully, the court agrees...