Supreme Court Narrows Reach of Computer Crime Statute

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On June 3, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its first-ever interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal criminal and civil statute intended to deter and punish unauthorized access to computer systems. The decision in Van Buren v. United States adopts a narrow construction of a key provision of the CFAA addressing whether a computer user “exceeds authorized access.” In doing so, the Court echoed the concerns of many commentators who have warned against a broad reading of the statute that might over-criminalize computer activity. The Court’s decision removed the CFAA as a tool to address certain circumstances in which someone accesses a computer in violation of an authorized purpose, such as violations of workplace technology policies or a website’s terms of service.

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