Thursday, December 03, 2015

2nd Circuit overturns "though-crime" conviction; limits on use of criminal code in workplace computer policies

The Second Circuit has negated the premise of the infamous Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report”, that is, about “thoughtcrime”, in reversing a conviction of Gilberto Valle in a conviction involving a fantasy porn crime posting.  I had discussed a parallel in this case to something that happened when I was substitute teaching in a posting here March 21.  Jaimie Williams writes about the case for Electronic Frontier Foundation here.  Newsday has a similar story by John Riley here.  HBO has a documentary on the case called “Tought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop”, on my Movies blog May 12, 2015; it will air again Dec. 30, 2015 according to HBO.

The Second Circuit has also ruled that violating an employer’s “business use only” for the employer’s computer systems cannot be turned into a criminal offense, even though it can rightfully result in termination of employment (effectively a civil penalty).   Where this could get muddled is when employees work at home or use their own computers or hardware, while linked to a corporate network.  It’s also muddy because it is very simple on most employer systems, when logged on to a Unix or Linux server common in the workplace, to Telnet to one’s own server at home.  I actually stumbled on this issue myself in early 1999.  It “blew over” but may have set the tone for more difficult issues later.

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