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Court says violating your work's computer policy isn't a crime

Checking Facebook at your office PC won't land you in a US prison.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 6, 2015
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Your employers might shake their fists when you check Facebook at work, but they can't have you sent to prison for it. A US appeals court has ruled that breaking corporate computer policies isn't against the law all by itself -- you have to commit a specific crime to get in trouble. Prosecutors had tried to argue that an NYPD officer was violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by looking up people for non-police purposes (which violates policy), but the court thought this was an overly broad interpretation. If that's illegal, the court says, "millions of ordinary computer users" would also be breaking the law.

The ruling also has important ramifications for free speech online. The officer was entertaining a cannibalism fetish, but the court rejected notions that his database lookups and forum posts were tantamount to a conspiracy to eat people. Just toying with a fantasy isn't criminal, according to the ruling. In other words, your internet activity is only a problem if there's a clear and serious intent to do something wrong.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

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