Speak Up And Fix The CFAA
from the don't-make-it-worse dept
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the law under which Aaron Swartz and other innovators and activists have been threatened with decades in prison. The CFAA is so broad that law enforcement says it criminalizes all sorts of mundane Internet use: Potentially even breaking a website's fine print terms of service agreement. Don't set up a Myspace page for your cat. Don't fudge your height on a dating site. Don't share your Facebook password with anybody: You could be committing a federal crime. (Read more here.)Thankfully, we've heard that the public outcry over the bad CFAA reform proposal probably (though not definitely) means that it won't be scheduled for a markup this week (as originally intended). However, that doesn't mean it's not still a major risk. There remains strong support from law enforcement folks and the Justice Department in particular for this kind of CFAA reform (the kind that makes it even broader). And, tragically, many in Congress just don't think that the public cares enough to support a bill in the other direction. Hopefully enough people speak up and let them know that this is unacceptable. A law that criminalizes breaking terms of service is not a law worth having on the books.
It's the vagueness and over breadth of this law that allows prosecutors to go after people like Aaron Swartz, who tragically committed suicide earlier this year. The government threatened to jail him for decades for downloading academic articles from the website JSTOR.
Since Aaron's death, activists have cried out for reform of the CFAA. But members of the House Judiciary Committee are actually floating a proposal to expand and strengthen it -- that could come up for a vote as soon as April 10th! (Read more here.)