back to article US anti-hacking law turns computer users into criminals

A commonly invoked anti-hacking law is so overbroad that it criminalizes conduct as innocuous as using a fake user name on Facebook or fibbing about your weight in a profile, one of the nation's most respected legal authorities has said. George Washington University Law School Professor Orin S. Kerr said he hopes the …


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  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    And on the reg...

    All users posting as Anonymous Coward will have to prove that they are not only anonymous but also a big girl's blouse who is afraid of spiders

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am fine with spiders and my blouse is well fitting and very manly.

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Rest easy...

      ...El Reg is British, so blouses of all sorts are most welcome.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


        El Reg might be British, but if I submitted a false mobile number to some site that resides in the U.S. of Internet then I can be deported and killed?


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I suspect that is really the issue for non-US citizens

          Is extra-territoriality of US Law becoming a significant problem?

          To protect my identity I may well use non-me information. If I don't commit a criminal act, why would it matter? Indeed, why should it matter? If I commit a criminal act then I suspect there are laws, which when properly enforced, under which I can and would be prosecuted.

          If it is a US - or indeed a bloody stupid EU - law then I expect (possibly without good reason!) my government to protect me from unwarranted (?) harrassment...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Like Ripping CDs

    Strikes me as one of those laws that would never actually be enforced at that level because it would be counter-productive (like ripping your CDs when it's technically illegal).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Replace "never enforced" with "selectively enforced against people we don't like" and you see the problem with such laws, and why down that route lays insidious totalitarianism. The case cited illustrates that perfectly - someone did something that while not criminal, most people found offensive, and amid cries of "something must be done! they must be punished somehow!" a law was bent and twisted until it fitted. Of course, over here, we'd likely have just chucked some ancient common law offense at them (outraging public decency perhaps? Or that 'using a telecommunications network to cause anyone else to feel offended...' one) and be done with it.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Not my real name

    Oh, and I'm 6' 6", blonde and have an athletic body...

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge


      Not my type.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well why am I not surprised our esteemed law makers dont know their ass from a hole in the ground and manage to enact legislation that is so far reaching that it defies comprehension?

    Oh wait I know where I have seen this type of stuff before....the USTPO. Never mind than I guess they are atleast following standing protocol.

    As for the hacking issues I guess I am guilty due to the fact I have a dedicated email account for when I am required to give my email address out for registration on a site (though I almost wish I had used it for El Reg....*nudge*), so I guess that as well as the fact I refuse to give out my real phone number on sites as well as my real name and so forth depending on what is required means im one of the worst hackers in this day and age, therefore I should be locked away forever. Prats.

    Anon since I basically admitted what is most like a felony over here which carries a sentence of death. Or did I just lie again? Damnit im out of control with the lying, its just so ingrained into my nature from experience on the good ol' interwebz that its become habit....I wonder if I can sure the Federal Gvmt for making me dependant on lying to protect my best I can anyway.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Any of them could face arrest and criminal prosecution."

    I honestly thought that that what _they_ wanted. To be able to catch on "something" and take you away!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In America, you can get arrested for refusing an officers command - even if that command is inane and illegal. If at that point you feel a little aggrieved, don't: that's resisting arrest, and much easier for them to actually convict you on.

  6. Tony Paulazzo

    Alien incursion

    And so, the criminalisation of everyone proceeded apace. The illuminati master smiled. If you could afford to buy your way out of the prison trade - you kept quiet, knowing that any little misdemeanour or internet quote would see you back in the 'big house' - almost like China.

    The enslavement of 'messy' humanity was almost complete.

    Peace thru' threats is no peace at all. Love thy neighbour. Ignorance is freedom.

    I am not a number, I am a free man!

    1. MrCheese

      Ain't it funny?

      Ain't it funny how the factory doors close

      Round the time that the school doors close

      Round the time that the doors of the jail cells

      Open up to greet you like the reaper

  7. Chris 228

    Cops all over the place

    Cops all over the place are hauling people off to jail for lying about their weight and having a user name on FARCEbook... or NOT! Ferchrissake people need to get a grip on reality. What would you expect from a lawyer... ?

    1. btone


      'Cops all over the place are hauling people off to jail for lying about their weight and having a user name on FARCEbook'

      or having the surname Assange?

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Assange obviously is not a real name, is it?

    2. bazza Silver badge

      @chris 228

      Yeah right. US prosecutors are well known for their sense of reality, reasonableness and balanced opinions. Any system that pays its prosecutors through an incentive schemes where pay is based on successful convictions is always going to encourage them to look for easy wins.

      Similarly the European arrest warrant system is being heavily abused. The measure was intended for serious cases only (terrorism, etc), but so far has resulted in only very petty cases indeed. For example, the recent case where the Portugese authorities had a British woman arrested on charges that actually related to her former boyfriend from years ago and his possession of forged currency. How does that even make sense?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's even worse

        It's either Poland or Hungary. But one guy was extradited there because he did not pay for a desert he order in a restaurant.

        1. puffspluslotion

          Sorry, I'm being an ass but....

          What kind of restaurant sells deserts?

    3. Woodgar

      If only we could make it a crime to write such pitiful drivel as farcebook, crapple and micro$oft.

      Such things may have been funny the first time they were used, but only in the head of the halfwit writing them.

  8. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    In other news

    Pres Obama announces a new prison building programme.

    20million new places in prisons to be constructed by the end of 2014

    "This new programme is designed to get the USA back to work"

    Some commentators joked that it would be cheaper to build fences around all those housing developments where all the resigents have been 'foreclosed' and keep the new breed of computer felons there.

    {Only joking but this shows what a mess the USA is in, both legally and financially}

  9. David 45

    Yanks want world domination

    This seems to me to be yet another step towards the goal of the USA government to rule the world, control the internet and regulate the meaning of life!

  10. bazza Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    In case you think it doesn't apply to us Brits...

    ...think again. With the current state of the extradition arrangements between the UK and the US the federal authorities could get you with no due process in this country.

  11. Herby

    But will it..

    make spam illegal? I don't know. Then again, I doubt our government will ever prosecute. They haven't done so for the current "CAN-SPAM" act (what a joke).

    Maybe if we require ICBM coordinates (latitude & longitude) on all emails (I doubt) then we could send off a tactical strike when we discover the problem. It wouldn't take much as the cumulative effect would be what gets the deed done. Yes, wishful thinking!

  12. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Only a lawyer would rant on like this

    The whole point of legal precedent is to set the practical limits of what laws actually mean. Expecting a law to describe every possibility and all the limits and bounds to its effect is impractical. With computer related laws, it's often the case that the a lot of the situations that laws could be applied to don't exist when the law is enacted.

    It comes down to common sense in the way the judges interpret the law which sets out who it will affect and under what circumstances. But you wouldn't expect a lawyer to admit to that.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Already been the case for a while...

    The US are paranoid, that's basically it. And it seems as if civil rights have become meaningless now because the "greater good' needs to prevail. Alas, that's my opinion on that matter and kinda offtopic here.

    This has been going on for quite a while now. Back in the IRC era suddenly this cool new program surfaced: FreeS/WAN. Adding VPN support to the Linux environment, needed to add a kernel module, set the whole kaboodle up and go.

    Nice for networks, offices and the likes, but we were a bunch of geeks heavily interested in networking, encryption and the stuff behind it. And so we build our own VPN. Of course only within a (relative) small range of hosts and only between people we knew to be OK and considered friends (and trust or not; firewalls were being kept in place). And it was awesome!

    Even setup our own DNS servers to manage a full virtual network. Encrypted tunnel, route GRE packets over it and you were home free.

    Alas; friends from Europe, Asia and even the US joined in. It was awesome!

    And at some point our US counterparts got a visit from some law enforcement guys. Wondering what was going on considering the "increasing amount of encrypted data". Yeah right; as if terrorists are going to use a VPN from a home connection.

    As such I think this to be old news. Its been going on for quite some time now.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


      "And at some point our US counterparts got a visit from some law enforcement guys. Wondering what was going on considering the "increasing amount of encrypted data".

      Time for a decent ISP to start offering this up as an ADSL packaged service methinks.

      Zen, are you listening?

      (This is where someone posts a link to make me look a right twonk(y).)

  14. atomic jam
    Black Helicopters

    I hear a distent thunder

    I see them coming over the horizon!

    Why did I say I was 6ft tall and lived in a gold zeppelin mansion.

    And why did I not post anonymously.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is...

    The problem with over-broad legislation is that when cops can't get you for what they think you have done due to a lack of evidence, they can throw the book at you another way. Many people see examples of this and think it is a good thing, for example Al Capone being locked up for tax evasion having failed to get him on racketeering charges. But then when it gets used to try and silence political dissension, you have your problems. In the US Wire and Mail fraud have been used as a catch all, and this may well get added to the list of catch-alls. In the UK we have recently been enacting catch-all legislation. Anyone remember an old man who heckled Jack Straw being held under the Terrorism Act. Or an extreme pornography law that is extreme in itself.

    When I was in the military we had section 69 - conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline. I don't think I ever saw a charge sheet where section 69 wasn't thrown in for good measure.

    Always dangerous to go down this route.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lots of countries have insane laws. In Romania you can get arrested for not having a bus ticket. Getting a fine for fare dodging is one thing,but being detained by the local plod ?

  17. Pete 8


    When our beloved leaders lie through their internet and print and TV teeth, they are all proven as criminals right?

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