Reading This Article at Work Could Become a Crime

Professors discuss potential broad interpretation of computer law

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 12, 2012 1:48 PM CST | Updated Dec 16, 2012 11:15 AM CST
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(Newser) – If you're reading this while at work, watch out: Doing so could someday become a federal offense, LiveScience reports. Two Boston College professors recently wrote a paper on a hypothetical broad interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act—an interpretation that could make it illegal for employees to violate their companies' computer policies. The 1986 act was intended to protect against hacking, but the authors say companies may be able to successfully sue their employees for doing anything from checking Facebook to sending a non-work-related email while on the job.

Of course, the law was written long before Facebook or any such site existed, and experts point out that technology has progressed faster than the laws that deal with technology. Some appeal courts have already ruled that things like accessing social media constitute a violation of CFAA, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently took a narrower interpretation of the law in a case involving the employee of an executive recruiting firm who was trying to set up a competing business. Perhaps the Ninth Circuit is "at the forefront of a new trend that recognizes dangers in the CFAA as a catch-all statute to pursue employees for fraudulent or disloyal use of workplace computers," the authors write.

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