SCOTUS to Rule on Whether Unauthorized Access to Computer Data Is a Federal Crime

Van Buren v. United States, No. 19-783 (U.S. filed Dec. 18, 2019), is a case in which the Petitioner has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to rule on whether or not a person who is authorized to access information on a computer for certain purposes violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if the same information is accessed for an unauthorized purpose. Van Buren requests that the Court reverse the judgment of the 11th Circuit that the Act should be interpreted broadly as covering access to information beyond stated use restrictions. The petitioner's brief points out that any access on a computer to information which violates a business's policies; a website's terms of service; or other restrictions would constitute a federal crime. Van Buren maintains that even if the government states it will not prosecute all violations of the Act, the Court should rule that section 1030 of the Act only concerns unauthorized computer hacking. Violations of private rules or state laws about the use of computer data should not be federal crimes.


While employed as a police officer, Van Buren looked up a license plate number in a database that he was authorized to use as part of his regular duties in exchange for $5,000.


The reply brief has been filed in this case, and it has been circulated to the Court for consideration at a conference. I will post about the decision when it is published.



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