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The Courts Your Rights Online

Appeals Court To Test How the Law Looks at Shared Accounts and Unauthorized Access (washingtonpost.com) 37

schwit1 writes: On Monday, the Ninth Circuit will hear arguments in United States v. Nosal on an interesting legal question: If a person shares access to a computer account with somebody else, under what circumstances can the second person engage in unauthorized access under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? The case centers around the difference between having access to something and having permission to use it. In other words, if you give somebody a desktop password to your computer so they can watch Netflix, but they take advantage of that to read your email, how does the law look at it? What happens if they come back later and log in again without your explicit permission, but only watch Netflix? What happens if you give them your Netflix password to watch while at your house, but they go home and use it to watch Netflix at their house? Eugene Volokh has a forthcoming paper articulating the legal interpretations of computer trespass. It's a tricky set of rules, and one another court has already misapplied.
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Appeals Court To Test How the Law Looks at Shared Accounts and Unauthorized Access

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  • by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @04:47PM (#50746551)

    If you let somebody in (say a babysitter to watch your kids) that doesn't give them permission to peruse through a diary hidden in a drawer in a night stand.

    • what about new email pop ups? that you can read at least some info from?

      Open wifi where you can see, shared files/folders, shared printers, etc.

      Files on the desktops

      Have permission to use the printer and see other documents on it / next to it.

      post it nodes with info on them on the display / desk

      Wait by now you are looking at 20 to life need I go on?

      • There's quite a difference between plain site and digging. That concept is actually pretty well established in case law as well.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Why would you need to make new law here? Obviously if you let a babysitter in, they can see things in plain sight. If they're looking for a glass and you got illegal stuff hidden in your kitchen cabinet, too bad. It's only if they go snooping in places that they clearly have no business snooping in it might be an issue. Same applies for your computer, clearly some things are just there. Some you might run into. And other things you don't find unless you go snooping.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      If you let somebody in (say a babysitter to watch your kids) that doesn't give them permission to peruse through a diary hidden in a drawer in a night stand.

      Besides that, I would also liken it to expected permission.

      The owner of the PC may give them access to the computer to view Netflix. That implies a single instance access to the computer to do one thing - view Netflix. It doesn't give permission to view the guy's email or other things, or even if he logs out permission to log in again.

      This permission ca

      • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @09:58PM (#50747787)
        If only someone owuld think of putting a sort of limited access to a computer. You know, like something where they could log in, but not access your email?

        They could call it a "Guest Account". Yeah, someone should invent that.

        • Summary focused on legal ramifications for individuals on their personal computers. But this is actually a bigger issue for corporate use of cloud services. What if your company has an official Twitter feed or Facebook wall which needs to be updated by multiple people? Right now, the only way you can do that is to share the single password with all those people. Now what if one of those people gets fired and you're a little slow to change the password? People criticized Sony for making themselves easy
          • But this is actually a bigger issue for corporate use of cloud services. What if your company has an official Twitter feed or Facebook wall which needs to be updated by multiple people?

            You lost me at Twitter and Facebook.

            Those two "services" are right up there with web advertising.

            I don't give a damn, and I have no sympathy for anything that goes wrong with that bit of douchbaggery.

            I mean, whatever could go wrong with multiple employees having the same password? If a business is so damn stupid as to do that, they don't have much to bitch about when the inevitable happens.

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      If you let somebody in (say a babysitter to watch your kids) that doesn't give them permission to peruse through a diary hidden in a drawer in a night stand.

      If the babysitter peruses through a diary hidden in a drawer in a night stand, it's not a Federal felony. That in and of itself makes it a bad comparison. In some of these examples, you've authorized the babysitter to open a drawer, but not that drawer right next to it. Up to five years, federal prison, with no such thing as parole.

      So while you would

  • Basically is it a DMCA violation AKA anti-hacking law crime, to use a password you legitimately know to use the computer system for things you weren't supposed to.

    This really stretches it too far if you ask me as there are other remedies before applying a hacking law. But they went too far long ago by allowing companies to use DMCA to hide copies of copyrighted things you bought from your own sight, like firmware. "Your car's computer can read your copy you own, but you can't."

  • In limited circumstances, I think that sharing a Netflix password is clearly OK. I base that statement on the fact that Netflix has a concept of users different users within one account.

    The question is perhaps: what does "limited" mean in this context? Family member who lives with me? Family member who lives elsewhere? Friend?

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