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EFF IN THE NEWS

How A 'Nightmare' Law Could Make Sharing Passwords Illegal

July 20, 2016

Jamie Williams, a legal fellow and lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the CFAA needs to be amended to clarify what is and isn't a crime, so "prosecutors do not have broad discretion to just go after whatever violation they choose to at any particular point in time for any given reason."

She says the EFF has been arguing for CFAA reform ever since the Aaron Swartz case. Swartz was a computer prodigy and activist who faced charges of computer fraud and possibly years in federal prison because he downloaded millions of pages of academic articles. Swartz supporters, including Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, say the Justice Department had taken this out of hand. Swartz hanged himself in 2013.

Williams says overly broad interpretations of the statute will become more and more relevant as more of our thermostats and other household devices are connected to the cloud. Those are also "protected" devices under the CFAA, and she says sharing those passwords could also be seen as violations of the terms of service and thus the CFAA. The tech companies agree, and so does the dissenting judge.

Thursday, July 14, 2016
NPR
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