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Is Casual Web Surfing at Work a Federal Offense?


Non-work-related Internet use may constitute a federal offense, according to a new paper. Two Boston College professors examined the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was originally written to dissuade criminal hacking, and found that a very broad interpretation of the act could make simple acts like surfing the Web or checking Facebook a crime.

Per the letter of the law, it’s a crime to “access a computer without authorization or exceed authorized access… from [a] protected computer,” as Mashable notes. By that definition, any user who access any website with a computer that has a network connection and a microprocessor is violating the law. Technology has clearly progressed faster than legislation.

“Since the law allows private right of action, companies could, in theory, successfully sue their employees for any computer policy violation,” writes Ben Weitzenkorn in the Mashable article, “even something as benign as sending your spouse an email about being late for dinner.”

Read Stephanie M. Greene and Christine Neylon O’Brien’s paper here. Do you think it’s time for an overhaul of tech- and Internet-related laws?

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Marissa Brassfield
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