Congress Could Make Facebooking at Work a Felony
“Congress Could Make Facebooking at Work a Felony,” Rebecca Freeman argues at Atlantic Wire.
“Imagine that President Obama could order the arrest of anyone who broke a promise on the Internet.” That’s what The Wall Street Journal‘s Orin Kerrthinks the latest cyber-security legislation will lead to: An assault on checking Facebook at work. Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on proposed changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which would seek tougher sentences for digital offenses. As more of the world moves online, so has crime. And legislation needs to adapt. But, does the latest updates to the bill target the right cyber criminals?
No, regular folk are in danger. The way the law is worded, it makes violating a terms of service agreement a felony. “The problem is that a lot of routine computer use can exceed ‘authorized access,'” explains Kerr. That means that if your employer prohibits Facebooking on the job and you sneak a peak at a tagged photo, you could face penalties. Senators Patrick Patrick Leahy and Al Franken expressed similar concerns about the proposal, suggesting the administration may be expanding the definition too much, reports eWeek. “We want you to concentrate on the real cyber-crimes, and not the minor things.”
While you might think an employer would never charge an employee for a felony based on Internet wandering, it’s not unprecedented, as Kerr points out. “In 2009, the Justice Department prosecuted a woman for violating the ‘terms of service’ of the social networking site MySpace.com. The woman had been part of a group that set up a MySpace profile using a fake picture. The feds charged her with conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.” He also cites a case where a woman faced charges for using Ticketmaster. Abuse of the language of the legislation is a real possibility.
As has frequently been noted, almost everything is a crime in America. By one estimate, most of us commit three felonies a day. Most of them are technical violations of the law and you’re extremely unlikely to be charged. But you could be, especially if authorities need leverage against you.
As I put it over six years ago, There Should be a Law Against All these Felonies.