[iw] - SCOTUS narrows CFAA
rforno at infowarrior.org
Thu Jun 3 12:28:19 EDT 2021
Supreme Court narrows cybercrime law
By Chris Mills Rodrigo - 06/03/21 12:19 PM EDT
The Supreme Court limited the scope of a crucial federal computer fraud
law Thursday by overturning the conviction of a former police officer
accused of misusing a government database.
The justices sided 6-3 with Georgia police sergeant Nathan Van Buren in
his appeal of a conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito
The 1986 law prohibits accessing a computer “without authorization or
exceeding authorized access."
The Justice Department had argued that Van Buren ran afoul of that law
when he took a bribe to access a woman's license plate information in
what was a 2015 FBI sting operation.
The former officer had argued that that interpretation was too broad
because he did have legitimate access to the database, even if he
If simply violating the terms of a system is illegal under the CFAA, his
team argued, then people could be charged for things as mundane as using
work computers for personal use.
The majority opinion, penned by Amy Coney Barrett, echoed that
"The Government's interpretation of the 'exceeds authorized access'
clause would attach criminal penalties to a breathtaking amount of
commonplace computer activity," the opinion reads. "For instance,
employers commonly state that computers and electronic devices can be
used only for business purposes. On the Government's reading, an
employee who sends a personal e-mail or reads the news using a work
computer has violated the CFAA."
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