Goofing Off on Your Work PC Not a Crime: Court

So go ahead, read Newser to your heart's delight from 9-5

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 11, 2012 9:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – Good news, slackers: It's not illegal to use your work computer to shop on Amazon, set your fantasy roster, or, well, read Newser. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has shot down a Justice Department argument that a 1984 anti-hacking law covered not just hacking, but any unauthorized use of a computer, the Wall Street Journal reports. The judge writing the majority opinion said the government "failed to consider the effect on millions of ordinary citizens."

The government's interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was so broad, the judge wrote, that "chatting with friends, playing games, shopping, or watching sports highlights" would be a federal crime. The case involved a man accused of using his work computer to start a competing business. He was indicted on several charges, including trade secrets theft, but it was the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act violations that he challenged on the basis that he had the authority to use his work computer to obtain information. Three lower courts had previously ruled in favor of the broader interpretation of the law.

Goofing off online may get you in trouble with your boss, but it won't land you in jail.
Goofing off online may get you in trouble with your boss, but it won't land you in jail.   (Shutterstock)
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[The law] can't possibly be prosecuted in any uniform way, because it makes everything illegal. - Dennis Riordan, a lawyer representing defendant David Nosal

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