The current Computer Fraud and Abuse Law, which dates to 1984, makes it a crime for people to exceed their authorized access to a computer. That law is already under attack from some lawmakers, who say that the concept of “authorized access” is so broad that the law could transform nearly everyone who goes online into a criminal.
Already, people have been prosecuted on the theory that they exceeded authorized access by violating the terms of service of private companies -- such as by lying when creating a MySpace account. In the most famous recent case, open information activist Aaron Swartz -- who committed suicide earlier this year -- was about to face trial for allegedly violating the computer fraud law by using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's server in order to download academic papers.
Unfortunately, this proposal now being floated would do the exact opposite. The bill would make it even easier to prosecute people for exceeding their “authorized access” to a computer, and also would increase the penalties, according to an analysis by the Center for Democracy & Technology.