Govt. Lawyer Seeks Partner for Fraud Prosecution. Send Pic

I am so glad I didn’t lie about my hair when I signed up for Jdate. If I had, not only would I have annoyed the small number of women who met me, I could have ended up doing time. At least that’s how it would be if the Clarence Darrows in the Justice Department have their way.

Earlier today, Richard Downing, deputy chief of the department Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, told a House subcommittee that those who violate a website’s terms of service should be subject to prosecution. Going forward with proposals to water down the existing Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, he argued, will make it difficult to convict those accused of stealing, invading privacy or misusing government databases.  (Which does make you wonder: Can the government indict itself?)

What’s the issue? Cnet’s Declan McCullagh says it’s all about the CFAA’s…

…general-purpose prohibition on any computer-based act that “exceeds authorized access.” To the Justice Department, this means that a Web site’s terms of service define what’s “authorized” or not, and ignoring them can turn you into a felon.

Not surprisingly, a number of people think that fudging, say, the color of your hair shouldn’t be a prosecutable offense.

“In the Justice Department’s view, the CFAA criminalizes conduct as innocuous as using a fake name on Facebook or lying about your weight in an online dating profile. That situation is intolerable,” says Orin Kerr, George Washington University law professor and a former federal prosecutor in the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section in the Criminal Division.

Fortunately, Kerr testified as well.

As for all the women who wouldn’t meet me because they didn’t like my profile: Maybe I take a lousy picture, but I told you I was law-abiding.

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