Compliance » Visiting A Website Despite Warnings Could Be A Federal Crime

Visiting A Website Despite Warnings Could Be A Federal Crime

July 18, 2016

A recent Ninth Circuit Appeals Court ruling featured a broad interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which may make it a federal crime to access a website after being told not to. In a lengthy Washington Post analysis, George Washington University Law School professor Orin Kerr argues that the ruling could have wide-ranging implications. The case, Facebook v. Vachani, focuses on Power Ventures’ move to continue allowing its users to send Facebook messages using the Power service, despite Facebook sending a cease-and-desist letter. Facebook blocked Power from using its computers, but Power changed its IP address and continued accessing the computers anyway. “Power deliberately disregarded the cease and desist letter and accessed Facebook’s computers without authorization to do so,” Judge Susan P. Graber wrote in the decision. Kerr takes issue with the court’s reasoning, which compared Facebook computers to public spaces protected from trespass. “Public websites are different,” he argues. “The web is a publishing platform, and everyone is inherently authorized to visit a public website. … The only non-public access was to the virtual space the [Facebook] user controlled, so I think the user’s permission should be enough.” Kerr hopes the court will grant a petition for rehearing en banc.

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