A Philosopher's Blog

Background Checks

Posted in Law, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on January 11, 2013
Calamity Jane, notable pioneer frontierswoman ...

Photo by H.R. Locke. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The murders that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary focused America’s attention on the matters of guns, violence and mental illness. The attention has faded substantially, as it always does after terrible events. However, politicians, pundits, and interested parties have remained focused on these matters.

As might be imagined, there is a renewed will to pass new laws regarding guns.  For the most part, the focus has been on the usual suspects: assault rifles, large capacity magazines, and the “loophole” that allows citizens to sell guns to people without background checks. I have written about semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines before, so I will focus on the loophole in question.

In general, when a person goes to a gun store to buy a gun, she has to pass a background check. This process is fairly quick, so a person can usually walk into a Walmart or other place that sells guns and walk out with a shotgun or rifle. Pistols typically require a waiting period, which has always struck me as a bit odd. I’ve actually worked in a gun store and have bought guns, so I have seen this process from both sides. I have never seen anyone fail the background check, but that is most likely because folks who would fail the check generally know they will do so. Also, some of the folks who would fail a background check can probably just get guns through  illegal channels. However, no doubt some people do fail the check and are denied the gun they want to buy.

The rules are rather different when a person is buying a gun from a private citizen (that is, someone who is not selling firearms as a dealer). If I have a gun  I want to sell and Calamity Jane  wants to buy it, I can sell it to her with no waiting period and no background check. That is, she could just saunter over to my house, toss down some cash, and saunter away with the gun. This is, currently, perfectly legal.

This “loophole” is sometimes called the “gun show loophole” because individuals often go to gun shows to sell or trade firearms. While dealers still need to make checks at gun shows, individuals do not. It is, not, however, limited to gun shows.

While this might seem odd, it actually is not that much different from other businesses. For example, if I want to run a business, I would typically need a license and I would face various regulations and restrictions. However, if I want to sell my truck, laptop, or dog to someone, I can do that with little in the way of regulation as long as I am acting as an individual and not as a business owner. The idea that a person has a right to sell her property in this manner is rather well-established and is a key part of the rights of property that are fundamental to a free society (in which almost nothing is free).

Getting back to the sale of guns by private individuals, a restriction on this would seem to violate this basic right. After all, guns are not illegal and hence reselling a gun would not be comparable to an individual dealing in an illegal product like heroin or chemical weapons.  However, some folks are rather concerned about this right.

The obvious concern is that someone who would not pass a background check, such as someone with the wrong sort of criminal record, would be able to bypass the check by buying a gun from another individual. Thus, by allowing individuals to sell (or give away) guns without a background check, the background checks become all but useless since they can be easily avoided by anyone who can find someone who will sell him a gun. As some folks see it, the solution is to not allow guns to be sold without such background checks.

Since private citizens generally lack the means to run such checks (and it would be a violation of privacy to simply allow everyone to check on everyone else), this would entail that all gun sales would have to be conducted in a way that would allow such a check to take place, such as by having the transaction occur through a licensed dealer. Presumably this would also have to extend to gifts and inheritances-after all, those are also ways a person could get a gun without having a background check. This would, of course, be somewhat inconvenient. However, it might be worth it, provided that it had a significant impact on crime.

On the one hand, it would seem that it would have at least some effect. After all, it would make it somewhat harder for people who could not pass a background check to get a gun via legal means.

On the other hand, the effect might be rather limited.  After all, anyone who knew about the law, was law-abiding and would pass a background check would go through this process to get a gun. But they are the sort of people who could just buy a gun directly from a dealer and also the sort of people who are unlikely to commit gun crimes. Those who would not pass the check could still acquire guns in other ways, such as the various illegal ways (theft, illegal gun sales, and so on). Another rather important concern is that the murders that have served to refocus attention on gun laws would not have been prevented by closing this “loophole.” After all, the killer at Sandy Hook would not have been prevented from getting those guns by a closing of this loophole. However, it is worth determining what impact such a law would have on violence. If it would reduce crime, then it might be worth the inconvenience. Likewise, making tougher restrictions on driving (such as not allowing people to drive when they could walk, bike or run) could save lives-but the question is whether we think it is worth the inconvenience.

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35 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on January 12, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Cash is the problem. As is the barter system. Seems hard to get rid of those altogether. No doubt they will outlaw selling guns by private citizens, just as they have outlawed selling drugs. I’m sure that’s a great idea, right? I swear, where are the people who actually think these days? We never hear one, real solution to one real problem from the government or media ever. Never. Not even one. And the people, like sheep, begin bleating out the same nonsense our media and politicians spew, as though nonsense were a real solution.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on January 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    By making us like Europe, this is what O and the Dems are taking away from us:

    “It is no accident that Silicon Valley is in America, and not France, or Germany, or England, or Japan,” Graham wrote. “In those countries, people color inside the lines.” The article is accompanied by a picture of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, prior to the founding of Apple, experimenting with a “blue box,” a device that tricks the phone system into allowing free phone calls. Wozniak says he once used a blue box to call the Pope.

    Graham reports that while working on the Manhattan Project, the physicist Richard Feynman made a hobby of cracking military safes. Graham said that there was something very American about the fact that American officials didn’t throw Feynman in jail for his antics. “It’s hard to imagine the authorities having a sense of humor about such things over in Germany at that time,” he noted wryly.

    I worry that Swartz’s prosecution is a sign that America is gradually losing the sense of humor that has made it the home of the world’s innovators and misfits. A generation ago, we hailed Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg as a hero. Today, our government throws the book at whistleblowers for leaking much less consequential information.

    Our nation’s growing humorlessness won’t just mean that insubordinate idealists like Swartz lose their freedom or their lives. As our culture becomes steadily less accepting of people with Swartz’s irreverant attitude toward authority, we’ll all be poorer as a result. Revolutionary new technologies and ideas don’t come from people with a reverence for following the rules. They come from iconoclasts like Jobs, Wozniak, and Swartz. It’s a bad idea to lock them up and throw away the key.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/12/aaron-swartz-american-hero/

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 14, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Is your point that the feds are being too tough on people who leak information and hack into computer systems? Do you support the Wikileaks folks now? Anonymous? Other such hackers and activists?

      I’m all for rebellious hacking to stick it to the suits and their minions. I’m also for exposing evil. In fact, a solid moral case could be made for the ethics of hacking into all governments, corporations and individuals who do wrong and making information about all these misdeeds readily available.

      Anarchy now, brother.

      • WTP said, on January 14, 2013 at 2:52 pm

        I’m all for rebellious hacking to stick it to the suits and their minions
        Really? So you’re cool with hackers breaking into corporate computer systems and stealing information? To what extent? Just trade secrets or does this extend to their coporate credit card numbers? Or even the cc numbers of private citizens? And what exactly justifies “sticking it to the man”? Do you support other exra-judical actions? Are possees ok? I mean if the guy is really truly guilty. Like some corporate suit? Hellova justification for a man “teatching” our nations youth.

      • T. J. Babson said, on January 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm

        Mike, I want you to think very hard about why Aaron Swartz was facing 30 years in prison for downloading a bunch of scholarly articles whereas David Gregory was given a pass for violating Washington D.C. gun laws.

        The answer has nothing to do with Wikileaks or Anonymous.

        • T. J. Babson said, on January 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm

          Here is a hint:

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 15, 2013 at 9:21 pm

          What is your general principle about what hacking is acceptable and what is not? The text you pasted made explicit mention about whistle blowers-what is your general principle about such leaking?

          • T. J. Babson said, on January 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm

            In general, I think that government activities should be transparent, and that when people like EPA administrator Lisa Jackson create fake email addresses to conduct EPA business “off the books” it deserves to be exposed.

            On the other hand when O’s people leaked the name of the Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. find Bin Laden, which cased the doctor to be jailed and tortured–that was clearly wrong.

            It would also have been wrong if somebody had hacked into the computer to find out this information and then leaked it. Of course, in that case the person would have been prosecuted, whereas when O’s people did it nothing happened.

            It is this terrible double standard that I was trying to point out.

            • T. J. Babson said, on January 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm

              Aaron Swartz:

              Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, a friend of Swartz, told NPR that making a big federal case over the computer hack was out of hand.

              “We live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis dine at the White House regularly,” Lessig said. “The idea that the government felt it so essential to insist that this behavior be marked as a felony is just unfathomable.”

              Swartz’s supporters say he had a simple motive: He wanted information to be free — not to make money or commit fraud. But the law is a blunt instrument. Some say, too blunt.

              http://www.npr.org/2013/01/15/169421636/did-prosecutors-go-too-far-in-swartz-case

              David Gregory:

              Having carefully reviewed all of the facts and circumstances of this matter, as it does in every case involving firearms-related offenses or any other potential violation of D.C. law within our criminal jurisdiction, OAG has determined to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to decline to bring criminal charges against Mr. Gregory, who has no criminal record, or any other NBC employee based on the events associated with the December 23,2012 broadcast. OAG has made this determination, despite the clarity of the violation of this important law, because under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust.

              http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/01/david-gregory-will-not-be-prosecuted/#more

            • T. J. Babson said, on January 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm

              What Aaron was protesting against was that taxpayers paid to support scientific research, and then were unable to access the results off that research without paying again for it.

              David Gregory was told it was against the law to possess a high capacity magazine in D.C., and then went ahead and knowingly broke the law to show a magazine on Meet The Press.

              Why did O’s Justice Dept want to put Aaron away for 30 years?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm

              Having people pay to access what their tax dollars pay for does seem to be a matter worth considering. On the one hand, there seem to be reasons for this. For example, many state parks have an entrance fee even though they typically get a budget of tax dollars. The idea is probably that the tax dollars are used to pay for a public good and the people who actually use it pay a bit more. In the case of the info in question, the fees might be needed to help pay for providing access to the info. On the other hand, publicly paid for stuff should presumably be accessible to those who paid for it without extra fees. Of course, the loss of revenue would need to be adjusted for.

              In the case of scholarly articles, I do tend to think they should be freely available if they were funded by public dollars. The journal biz is actually a money maker for the companies that control the journals. After all, they get free labor (faculty are not paid for their articles and in some cases they pay a fee to submit papers) and schools will shell out a lot to have access to the journals. Journals even sell articles online for absurd prices. For example, I co-authored a piece with physicist Paul Halpern that sells for $9.95. We don’t get a cent for this.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm

              In the case of Gregory, I have two views.

              First, if he knew the law and broke it willingly, then he should presumably be arrested and punished.

              Second, I think that there are cases in which laws can be broken without punishment. In this case, while Gregory had the illegal item the intent was to use it to demonstrate what was being discussed. A case can be made for allowing educators, media folks and others to display illegal items for legitimate purposes. However, this sort of thing should be properly approved-if only for the practical reason of avoiding legal woes.

            • WTP said, on January 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

              A case can be made for allowing educators, media folks and others to display illegal items for legitimate purposes.

              Because you “elites” can be trusted more than us plebeians. (cough)Amy Bishop(cough).

            • T. J. Babson said, on January 16, 2013 at 7:53 pm

              A must-read on Aaron Swartz:

              According to his indictment, Aaron Swartz was charged with wirefraud for concealing/changing his “true identity”. It sent chills down my back, because I do everything on that list (and more).

              ***
              Why do I do all this? That’s none of your business! I mean, all this has perfectly rational explanations in terms of cybersecurity, privacy, and anti-spam. You can probably guess most of the reasons. But explaining myself defeats the purpose. I shouldn’t have to explain myself to you, to prosecutors, or to a jury. I have a human right to privacy, and guarding that right should not be cause for prosecution.

              That’s what’s scary about the Aaron Swartz indictment. He was indicted for wire-fraud for concealing his “true identity”, for doing what I do. But at no time was he asked for his true identity. His true identity was not needed to access the JSTOR documents. JSTOR allowed anybody from the MIT network to access their documents, and MIT allowed anybody to access their network without requiring identity.

              Let me repeat that: nobody asked Aaron for his true identity, but he was indicted for wirefraud for concealing his true identity. He was indicted for doing the same things I do every day.

              It’s around this time that people bring up how Aaron used MAC spoofing to get around blocks put in place by MIT. These people don’t understand MAC addresses. MAC addresses are not a machine’s true identity. They aren’t a means of security or authorization. When somebody blocks your MAC address, it doesn’t send the message “you are unauthorized”, it’s not clear precisely what message it sends. It’s like saying if somebody blocks your phone number, then it’s wirefraud calling from a different phone. Your phone number is not your true identity, and neither is your MAC address.

              http://erratasec.blogspot.com/2013/01/i-conceal-my-identity-same-way-aaron.html

    • magus71 said, on January 15, 2013 at 1:26 am

      I have this argument at work all the time. I argue with my Captain about rules. He is completely by the book on everything, and it drives me bonkers. There are a lot of people in the Army that are all about rules, so much that I wonder how much work they get done since all they do is memorize regulations that have no impact on anything I see as important.

      Here’s an example of an argument I got into with my captain: He insisted that I pack everything on the packing list for the deployment to Afghanistan. But there’s a problem: I couldn’t fit all of the stuff they wanted me to bring, into the three bags I was allowed. As I said to a Lt. “Army rules don’t trump physics”. This is the kind of stunting of a perfectly good mind that can occur with hyper-rigidity.. No rule can account for all situations.

      This is where I see the differences between special forces and regular military. People think SF is super-tough people, and they are. But they’re much more than that. They’re extremely flexible. In the book, “No Easy Day” about DEVGRU taking out bin Laden, the author relates a story in which, right after getting to SEAL Team 6, he walks into the locker room as they prepare for a mission, He was used to a packing list telling him exactly what to bring on his mission. A SEAL veteran looks at him and says, “dude, you’ve deployed before; bring what you need.” They call it “Big Boy Rules.

      The selection process for special forces is as much about getting people who know when to obey rules and when not to, as anything else.

      From now until they kick me out or retire me, I’m playing by Big Boy Rules.

      • biomass2 said, on January 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

        Your personal frustration with regulations is understandable. For the efficiency of some systems, an individual who has worked to achieve a certain status in the system should have earned the right to make certain judgments without reference to the “rules”. The military context you’re discussing would seem to be one such system.

        Wall Street banking would not.

        The crux of your issue seems to be this phrase:
        “. . .anything I see as important.”
        Clearly, you don’t agree with the captain. He seems to be a unique case. He’s “completely by the book on everything.” Of course, I thought Petraeus was a model military man. And I thought that, by definition, that meant he was “by the book”. That’s the way the military has been depicted. It’s the image the military has worked hard to convey.

        My point is that different people, as your phrase above indicates, have different priorities, different ideas about what is “important”.
        How far can an organization uniquely dependent on discipline go in overlooking deviations from its requirements?

      • T. J. Babson said, on January 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm

        30 years ago when I was in the USN the “Big Boy Rules” were understood to kick in as soon as you left a training command. Looking back, it is amazing how much responsibility I was given at age 21.

        It is frightening to think that the people running the show nowadays obviously think that following the rules to the letter is more important than accomplishing the mission.

        • magus71 said, on January 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm

          Our performance in Afghanistan is indicative of this culture., We did not win. In ten years of fighting, a primitive enemy is still running so close to the base I’m headed to I could probably hit him with a rock, let alone an M240B. Yet you will hear much more from the Sergeant Major about proper wear of eye protection than you ever will about how to get rid of the enemy who’s causing your eyes to be in danger.

          As my friend said: Making petty rules is easy. Winning wars is tough.

          • biomass2 said, on January 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm

            “Making petty rules is easy. Winning wars is tough.” HIstory has proven both. Especially the latter.
            The petty rules seem to have accumulated like barnacles on the important rules as more rules have been written to deal with new theories,new capabilities, and a basically different kind of military and new situations.

            Doubtless there were many fewer petty rules during the Revolutionary War. So, in theory, it shouldn’t be too great a task to eliminate those petty rules. Just scrape away the barnacles that have accumulated over the last 200+ years. In reality, things have changed since the Revolutionary War. The regs that go along with those changes are likely different. And the petty rules are clinging to both the most basic, time worn rules and new rules that have grown with new theories and new capabilities, new requirements, etc.

            Should there be no eye protection?Or just no rules for wearing of eye protection? Or just the important ones? And who decides? Perhaps more importantly, how did the deciders become the “deciders”?

            What are the important rules that should be stressed?

            • magus71 said, on January 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm

              Changing things in the military will not be easy. It would take a complete revising of the culture. We need to get back to the mission based tactics we implemented from the German Wehrmacht. America used to do this, now with the advent of technology which allows far-away commanders the ability to micromanage battles, we’ve slowly gone away from simply giving the mission and letting troops figure out how to do it. This trickled down to every thread of the Army until generals are worried about reflective belts.

              “The success of the doctrine rests upon the receiver of orders understanding the intent of the issuer of the orders and acting to achieve their goal even if their actions violated other guidance or orders they had received. Clearly taking the risks of violating other previously expressed limitations as a routine step to achieving a mission is a behaviour most easily sustained in a particular type of innovative culture.”

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission-type_tactics

              This type of innovative culture is clearly shown in the book, “Start Up Nation” about how Israel formed a powerful economy and military and continues to be one of the most innovative countries in the world. It starts with realizing that with innovation and dynamism comes danger, and then accepting that danger and not punishing people for taking risk. It continues with allowing lower ranking people in organizations, such as in the Israeli Army, the opportunity to tell higher ranking people they are wrong and to tell them why. In the US Army, the Emperor can have no clothes and nary a Private will chance to tell anyone. That’s a shame.

            • biomass2 said, on January 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm

              magus: I read the wiki article. Did I miss something here?

              1/ The Germans used these tactics.. The Germans lost both World Wars.
              a/ What specifically makes the tactics of a losing nation so attractive?
              b/ Why would we want to follow them down that path?
              c/ Why would their victims, the Jews, want to utilize that same approach.?
              2/The tactic seems to effectively provide cover for the “superior commanders”. If something goes awry and an action produces unsatisfactory–or worse– results , can’t commanders always use the excuse that they were “misunderstood” by their subordinates?
              3/ For the tactic to work, the subordinates would have to be supremely capable. Not everyone of lower rank knows enough or has enough experience to “tell higher ranking people they are wrong and to tell them why.” In other words, the entire system would, it seems, have to be extremely efficient ^before^ the tactics are ever employed. For example, subordinates would have to be highly trained and effectively managed before they ever received their orders.

            • magus71 said, on January 16, 2013 at 4:06 am

              biomass2, the Germans are acknowledged to have had the best man for man army in WWII. The lost because of several factors, not the least of which was fighting a two front war against three major powers. The Germans had 13:1 kill ratios against the Soviets. German equipment was inferior to Western powers equipment until about 1944. The Germans won with speed, flexibility, and unit cohesion.

              I would think the jews would want to use anything that works in war.

              As the article states, it takes a culture of innovation to work. Our army is lacking that, but not because it doesn’t have capable people: it has one of the most educated fighting forces in the world.

            • T. J. Babson said, on January 16, 2013 at 7:36 am

              biomass, do you believe that you can take the same person, but put him in two different work environments, and in one he will be an under-performer and in another he will be a star?

              Good management is all about getting the work environment right so that people can perform at their best.

            • WTP said, on January 16, 2013 at 7:47 am

              As the article states, it takes a culture of innovation to work. Our army is lacking that, but not because it doesn’t have capable people: it has one of the most educated fighting forces in the world.

              Which is why the real war is here on the home front. Come home safe. You’re needed here far more than you’re needed over there.

        • biomass2 said, on January 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

          Among the questions I tried to build into my response to magus were, essentially: Who decides the rules? How specifically should those rules be followed? Who agrees to follow them? Those questions are separate but interconnected, and I’ve raised questions like these repeatedly in discussions of other issues.

          I don’t think it’s as clear cut as” following the rules” vs ” accomplishing the mission”. You have to do one in order to complete the other. But clearly, some rules , or parts of them, are ridiculous.

          A squad with a few 18 yr olds in it has a mission to accomplish. Does the squad go into the mission with no rules? With some rules? Which ones? Should those 18 year olds “follow the rules [few or many rules] to the letter” or decide, individually or in twos or threes, which rules are to be followed only in part? And who among them decides which part(s are worth following? If they chuck the rules, in part or in their entirety, how is the mission to be accomplished?

      • WTP said, on January 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm

        Curious, does this captain have significant, extended battlefield experience? I don’t mean in Gulf War I, but in Iraq and/or Afghanistan? I presume a captain would be a little young to have been in Viet Nam. Does this strictly-by-the-book mentality extend to the front lines?

        • magus71 said, on January 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm

          He has less experience than I do. Yes, the rules obsession can get even worse on the front lines, unless you’re talking about the guys doing the actual fighting; they try to get away from the “flagpole” as much as possible because the closer to a centralized system the army becomes, the dumber it gets. I really doubt Sherman much cared what his men looked like at they ravaged Atlanta. America’s best warriors were never big on rules; they were borderline rogues, whom needed to be unleashed in bad times.

          Yes, biomass2, you do need rules. But any football coach who places more emphasis on what his football team wears for a uniform than he does on blocking, tackling, throwing and catching, will be a failure as a coach. All I know is that my police department had about 1/10th of the rules of the Army and was about 3 times as effective, if not more. The root of this is the utter risk aversion in the army. It is the most risk averse organization in America, at least that I know of.

  3. ajmacdonaldjr said, on January 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Tyranny is as tyranny does.

    “[A]ccording to Thomas [Aquinas], he [the ruler] may not take private property beyond what public need requires, though strictly speaking property is an institution of Human rather than Natural law. Above all, the rulership of one man over another must not take away the free moral agency of the subject. No man is bound to obedience in all respects and even the soul of the slave is free (a doctrine Aristotle would hardly have understood). It is for this reason that the resistance of tyranny is not only a right but a duty.” (George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, Third Edition (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1937, 1950, 1961; 1965) pp. 255-256)

    See: http://books.google.com.mx/books?id=pV5XQgAACAAJ&dq=A+History+of+Political+Theory&cd=2&redir_esc=y

    • WTP said, on January 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      property is an institution of Human rather than Natural law Yeah, just try telling that to an amimal who you attempt to take food away from that he has just caught and killed. Or hover around your very own dog while it’s eating the food you brought it. Or what happens when one group of monkey moves in on the territory that another group considers “theirs”. Etc., etc., etc. If elephants had thumbs they would also have a far more complex legal system.

  4. magus71 said, on January 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Is this a good culture in the Army? More soldiers get in trouble for uniform violations than failing to score well on rifle qualifications or not knowing how to use communications radios. I would hazard that most soldiers do not know how to properly use the army’s portable radios. I’m not exaggerating. Soldiers spend several hours per week completing online “sexual assault” training, “thumbdrive” training, anti-hazing training, yet non-infantry fire their rifles about 1 hour a year. The only thing the Taliban trains on is firing his weapons, and making bombs.

    We simply cannot beat their efficiency.

  5. T. J. Babson said, on January 18, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    The problem is that the way many laws are written makes it impossible for ordinary people not to break any laws. Prosecutors can then go after anybody they want to and find something if they look hard enough.

    Here is an example:

    The CFAA is a 1986 law, section 1030 of the federal criminal code, which makes any unauthorized access into a protected network or computer a federal crime and permits harsh penalties for those convicted.

    But 1986 was a long time ago. Today, any Web server can be defined as a protected computer, and almost anything can be defined as unauthorized access.

    Use your roommate’s Netflix account to watch movies on your iPad? You’re violating the CFAA.

    Trim the URLs of articles on the New York Times website so you can read them for free? You’re breaking federal law.

    Check your Facebook page at work, even if your employer forbids it? Better call your lawyer.

    If that sounds ridiculous, here’s a fact: Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, a well-known “gray hat” hacker, was convicted in November of fraud and conspiracy for harvesting data from a publicly accessible server. He’s facing up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing next month.

    There weren’t any passwords protecting the data Auernheimer and his friend, who later testified against him, downloaded. All they did was change numbers in URLs and press “return.” But according to the CFAA, they were breaking the law.

    http://www.livescience.com/26383-are-you-looking-at-this-website-you-might-be-breaking-the-law.html

    • WTP said, on January 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      You see a lot of this in Europe. We are legislating ourselves into anarchy.


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