My Congressional Testimony on the Need to Narrow the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Tomorrow morning at 10am, I will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security about the need to narrow the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. I have submitted my written testimony, and it is available here. It begins:

The current version of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) poses a threat to the civil liberties of the millions of Americans who use computers and the Internet. As interpreted by the Justice Department, many if not most computer users violate the CFAA on a regular basis. Any of them could face arrest and criminal prosecution.

In the Justice Department’s view, the CFAA criminalizes conduct as innocuous as using a fake name on Facebook or lying about your weight in an online dating profile. That situation is intolerable. Routine computer use should not be a crime. Any cybersecurity legislation that this Congress passes should reject the extraordinarily broad interpretations endorsed by the United States Department of Justice.

In my testimony, I want to explain why the CFAA presents a significant threat to civil liberties. I want to then offer two narrow and simple ways to amend the CFAA to respond to these problems. I will conclude by responding to arguments I anticipate the Justice Department officials might make in defense of the current statute.

The three other witnesses appearing at the hearing will be James Baker, the Associate Deputy Attorney General; my old friend and colleague Richard Downing, a Deputy Chief of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section at DOJ; and Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security. For those interested in attending, the hearing will be at 10 am in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

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