Skip to main content

Anonymity and Privacy Should Not Add Up to Prison Time

March 17, 2009

Anonymity and Privacy Should Not Add Up to Prison Time

EFF Urges U.S. Sentencing Commission to Reject Amendments on Use of Proxies

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today urged the United States Sentencing Commission to reject modifications to federal sentencing guidelines that would require extra prison time for people who use technology that hides one's identity or location.

Under current rules, a criminal defendant can get additional time added to a prison sentence if he used "sophisticated means" to commit the offense. In its testimony before the commission, EFF will argue that sentencing courts should not assume that using proxies -- technologies that can anonymize users or mask their location -- is a mark of sophistication. In fact, proxies are widely employed by corporate IT departments and public libraries and, like many computer applications, can be used with little or no knowledge on the part of the user.

"It would be a serious mistake for the United States Sentencing Commission to establish a presumption that using a common technology is worthy of additional punishment," said Jennifer Granick, EFF Civil Liberties Director. "Whether or not a convicted person's use of a proxy is worthy of increased penalties is a case-by-case determination most appropriately made by a court."

"While proxies may be an advanced technology, using a proxy is often no more difficult than using Microsoft Word," said Seth Schoen, EFF Staff Technologist. "Many kinds of people use proxies for all sorts of legitimate purposes, so only a court can reliably assess which uses are truly employed as a 'sophisticated means' of committing a crime and which are for privacy, free speech or some other innocent purpose."

Schoen will testify about EFF's comments at the Sentencing Commission's public hearing on March 17th in Washington, D.C.

For the full testimony:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/ussc-schoen-statement.pdf

For more on the hearing:
http://www.ussc.gov/AGENDAS/20090317/Public_Hearing.htm

Contacts:

Jennifer Stisa Granick
Civil Liberties Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jennifer@eff.org

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

JavaScript license information