Farmville Isn’t Hacking

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently released a decision announcing that employees cannot be subject to criminal sanctions under a federal anti-hacking law simply for violating a website’s terms of use or an organization’s computer use policies. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 was ideally passed to help employers and government agencies prosecute those who steal data from their networks, but lawyers for the Department of Justice argued that the Act could also be used to prosecute those who engage in less clearly criminal conduct, such as abusing computer use policies.

In a blow to the government’s case, the Circuit Court ruled that this use of the law was far too broad. Noting that it could encompass employees who engage in activities such as playing the Facebook game Farmville at work or posting incorrect information about themselves on dating websites, the Court determined that too many unsuspecting individuals may be subjected to legal proceedings for their activities.

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