DOJ Two Step: It Should Be A Criminal Offense To Lie About Your Age On Facebook... But We Probably Won't Go After You For It

from the well,-that's-comforting dept

While we obviously spent a lot of time on the SOPA hearings this week, there was another Judiciary Committee meeting of interest this week concerning cybersecurity. Part of the discussion focused on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is being regularly abused by law enforcement to bring all sorts of questionable charges against people. This, by the way, is one of the reasons why we fear the felony provisions in SOPA, because we know how the DOJ abuses similar laws.

In this case, one of the key issues is that law enforcement has used the law in the past to say that any violation of a terms of service agreement -- such as lying about your age when signing up for a dating site -- could be a criminal offense under the CFAA. That, of course, is insane. Even more ridiculous, however, is that the DOJ's official testimony at the hearing was about how important it was to keep this part of the law in place, allowing it to add questionable charges.
The law must allow "prosecutions based upon a violation of terms of service or similar contractual agreement with an employer or provider," -- Richard Downing, Justice Department's deputy computer crime chief
But then, Downing also seems to be saying the exact opposite:
“The DoJ is in no way interested in bringing cases against people who lie about their age on dating sites, or anything of the sort. We don’t have the time or resources to do that,”
So.... the law must allow such prosecutions, but it has no interest in bringing such prosecutions. That makes perfect sense. If you're a DOJ official, I guess. For the rest of us... huh?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    dloraeynet, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:24pm

    They have to build play areas in prison for all of the children they can bust.

     

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    Jeff (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:24pm

    So where do they stand on lying about my weight??

     

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      el_segfaulto (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:35pm

      Re:

      Depending on how heavy you are, I hope they don't stand within your field of gravity. I kid! I kid! I just couldn't resist the opening.

       

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        TheStupidOne, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 3:34pm

        Re: Re:

        They are already within his field of gravity, and yours. Gravity doesn't have a range limit ya'know.

        but they might go after him if he weighs more than ... I'll say 200000 kilos. At that point he's consuming enough natural resources to feed a village and needs to be controlled.

         

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    Prisoner 201, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    They wont bust you for lying about your age on a dating service.

    They will bust you because you annoyed them, and it's dead easy to find a TOS somewhere that you violated.

     

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    Nathan F (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    They are saying that so when something happens like Bradly Manning they can throw the book at them and get them for violating the CFAA and entering pseudonymous data into whatever social site was being used to try and hide their identity.

    Basically they are setting it up so they can get you for something minor and hang you for it.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:53pm

      Re: Same as it ever was.

      "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged."
      Cardinal Richelieu (1585 - 1642)

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    "We don’t have the time or resources to do that"

    Implying that if they were given sufficient funds, they would go after people who lie about their age?

    My government is broken. Anyone know where's the reset button?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:46pm

    I have a keyboard/mouse macro that automatically presses "yes" for terms of Service. I'm innocent! Take my Macro to jail!

     

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    Itch, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:48pm

    Gotcha

    Actually it does make perfect sense. I've seen it here and other sites how SOPA would make it so every day you would be breaking the law. This just allows them to have an 'in' to start prosecuting and allow them to dig up more information.

    Think about it this way. Every company has a dress code. Or required working hours. Do you conform everyday 100%? By the way the rules are structured, if they (employer) ever needed to fire you they have a reason.

    It's the same thing here. You drifted in your lane - get to pull you over. Asking questions about something cops are doing - interference or disturbing the peace. This just is the same for the digital realm.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:53pm

      Re: Gotcha

      Exactly. We won't sue the masses for it. But if it's the only in we have to sue someone we want, well... we'll have it.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

      Re: Gotcha

      There are plenty of laws that individuals violate intentionally or accidentally every day. from jay walking to watering the law on the wrong day, from not paying your meter parking for the 3 minutes you need to failing to disclose all your capital gains when you sell something. Everyone fudges a bit, and that is perhaps human nature.

      Laws like this COULD be extended in this manner, but rarely are. You could take someone to court for it, and the judge could find you guilty, give you 1 day to serve in the community, suspend the sentence, and order it stricken from your record immediately. The prosecutors won't bother as a result.

      The system is "self-fixing", at least in this manner.

       

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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:56pm

    It's Like Something Out of a Book

    "Did you really think we want those laws observed? said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against. We're after power and we mean it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

     

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      out_of_the_blue, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

      Re: It's Like Something Out of a Book -- No Attribution!

      That's probably already over the line.

      But facts are that Galt's Gulch doesn't exist -- can't, with today's technology -- and the Dr Ferris type technicians have got everything all but nailed down. Hence my pessimism.

      When you understand the problems, it's bleak indeed.

       

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        Chris Rhodes (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:58pm

        Re: Re: It's Like Something Out of a Book -- No Attribution!

        No Attribution!
        I tend to not put Rand's name after quotes from her books because the mere sight of it causes some people's brains to lock up and their mouths to start foaming in outrage before they ever read the actual words of the text. I inevitably get someone who then complains that I should have attributed the quote (because I guess they couldn't do a simple Google search to figure out where it came from), but honestly, I don't give a shit.
        But facts are that Galt's Gulch doesn't exist
        Perhaps not literally, but as a metaphor for people "opting out" of the system, I think we're starting to see it happen. You'd have to be insane to trade the stock market right now, for example. Better to get out and use that money for something real.

         

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          Hephaestus (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 4:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's Like Something Out of a Book -- No Attribution!

          This whole incident with ACTA and SOPA reminded me of Atlas Shrugged from the start. What scares me most, is the politicians blatantly disregarding the citizens and their concerns, in favor of the corporate lobbyists. They seem to be thumbing their noses at people of the US, and saying "look what I am doing, you can do nothing to stop me, and I dare you to try". The anger I have seen people express here, and other web sites, will eventually begin feeding back on itself and reach threshold. God help the politicians when that happens.

           

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      MikeVx (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 4:35pm

      Re: It's Like Something Out of a Book

      After some time spent around 30 years ago doing some research on the subject, I am convinced that it is illegal to exist, and that anything that is possible for a human being to do is illegal under some or another idiot law. As a result I laugh whenever I agree to terms of service that mention illegality, since I can't have done anything legal for decades. Passing this new law is just lazy as there are probably several hundred laws already lurking that could be used for far worse than anyone has speculated yet on SOPA.

      It should still be set aflame before it can be voted on.

       

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        Prisoner 201, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 1:23am

        Re: Re: It's Like Something Out of a Book

        "All crimes are committed by the living. Therefor, Life is a crime."
        -Judge Death

         

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    BentFranklin (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 1:59pm

    Some websites have terrible security, such as encoding the username in the URL like:

    http://www.importantcompany.com?UserID=5617

    It's scary how many sites with important financial data do this. So, someone asks them selves what happens if the change the URL to say UserID=5618, and they find themselves viewing Sheriff Hogg's secret slush fund.

    DOJ wants to be able to charge such people with hacking. It's quick and easy and they don't have to think much harder than the morons who created the site.

     

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:01pm

    It's high time the Supremes reversed Whren. Or maybe we should get a different government.

     

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    Daddy Warbucks, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:07pm

    Being a Jerk is my Right!

    Oath For the World: “I will NOT be a Thin-Skinned little bitch and take everything personally.”

    Oath To the World: “Grow up you whinny, Thin-Skinned little bitches.”

     

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    FM Hilton, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:11pm

    The Supreme Court does what?

    There's no way this law could ever get reversed by the SC, because it's regulatory one. It's not been sued over, either..because it's not formally even on the books, yet.

    They're still working out the kinks for the updating of the law. It's not quite finalized. Don't worry, I'm sure the DOJ will make as much of it as possible available for their pretty little heart's desires-to bust people for the silliest of reasons.

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    makes perfect sense

    this is exactly how they could subpoena *anyone*. Saying that a TOS violation is a reason to be able to subpoena for more information, in stating that it's possible a federal crime is committed.

    sad, but unsurprising.

     

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    ChrisB (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:22pm

    This is why I love Techdirt

    > That, of course, is insane.

    I hate mainstream news when they report idiotic things like this with a straight face. It would be refreshingly honest if they had the balls to finish the report and say, "That, of course, is insane."

     

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    The Incoherent One (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:24pm

    Yes, I was thinking of breaking the law, but at the last minute I thought better of it: So why am I under arrest?

     

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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:30pm

    Punishment due

    When you deserve to be punished but you did nothing illegal we need some way to punish you (read: Lori Drew).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

    What is the US government going to do after they've put the entire population in jail for stuff like this and infringement? So they get sopa passed and make a lot of ordinary citizens felons now. They can't vote, can't get a good job (don't make enough money to pay taxes), etc. That's what the US government is trying to achieve?

     

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      The Devil's Coachman (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 3:19pm

      Re:

      Long before the logical end point of that government path arrives, there would be flames shooting out of the White House, Congress, all the State Houses, City Halls and Police Stations. The financial institutions would be reduced to looted and smoking rubble, and be-suited bodies would litter lower Manhattan like so many dead opossums, puffing up like pinatas as the days went by. Raging mobs would rove about, finding their ways to communities like Alpine, NJ, Southampton, NY, Greenwich, CT, and the like, and it would make The Reign of Terror look like a bar brawl. At least I hope so.

       

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      G Thompson (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 7:50pm

      Re:

      What is the US government going to do after they've put the entire population in jail for stuff like this and infringement?

      Well go after the nasty foreigners of course...

      If you're not being investigated by the USG or in one of its rendition gaols you must be a terrorist

      /sarc (or is it)

       

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    Overcast (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 3:17pm

    Should also be a criminal offense for a political candidate to lie while campaigning...

    Why would they even remotely consider Facebook more important?

     

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    Pitabred (profile), Nov 17th, 2011 @ 3:26pm

    Not now

    “The DoJ is in no way interested in bringing cases against people who lie about their age on dating sites, or anything of the sort. We don’t have the time or resources to do that,”

    Yet.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2011 @ 3:28pm

    It's easy mate, here's the translation: "We must be allowed to continue systematically overcharging defendants, to force them to plead guilty to lesser offences, rather than risk decades of imprisonment if they gamble on a trial and lose."

     

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    WysiWyg (profile), Nov 18th, 2011 @ 12:15am

    Lawmaking?

    If you make breaking the ToS a felony, doesn't that give private sites the power to make new laws?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    I will never

    give to some fucknut corporation my actual age. Only companies with which I am logged in and conducting a transaction that requires a bank account number as means for a payment. All others kiss my ass.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    "They" may not be interested in prosecuting, but I'm sure the companies paying them are...

    How long before they add a provision to allow companies to sue for statutory damages of $150,000 per instance of customers violating their terms of service???

    New business model patent pending:
    1. Create popular site and sign users up.
    2. Offer service to provide X to users.
    3. Change terms of service to make users using X a violation (you included the 'these terms may be changed by us at any time without any prior notice or warning' in your site terms of course...)
    4. Sue Users....
    5. Profit....

     

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    iBelieve, Nov 20th, 2011 @ 3:53pm

    Lying Under Oath is a Crime

    All other are verbal or written mistruths--- Not a crime unless trying to deceive an underage person or someone supposedly underage. If a person lies about his or her age for their own security's sake, THAT IS NOT A CRIME. If a person falsifies a legal or financial document for monetary gain or leverage or to avoid some otherwise formidable liability, that is getting close to fraud.. and I wouldn't touch that. But just for the sake of feeling more comfortable on some fucknut site in some discussion that doesn't mean dilly, that is not a crime.

     

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