Symposium: 'Hacking into the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act'

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

This Friday, Nov. 6, the George Washington Law Review is hosting a symposium, "Hacking into the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: The CFAA at 30." I have posted a detailed schedule and paper overview for those interested in attending. The event is free and open to the public, and it will be held at the George Washington University Law School. If you plan to attend, the Law Review would appreciate your filling out this form letting them know. But you don't need to fill out the form to attend.

The symposium brings together CFAA experts from academia, government and practice to discuss how the CFAA works, whether it works and how it might be changed to work better. Unlike a lot of academic symposia, this event should feature real disagreement. The presenters are roughly evenly divided between those who are (generally) critical of the CFAA and those who (generally) are not. The opening remarks at the symposium will be delivered by David Bitkower, principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. And the night before the public symposium, at a dinner for the students and speakers, we will be honored to hear from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). It should be a great event, and the Friday events are all open to the public. I don't think it will be webcast, though. If you want to attend, you have to do so in person.

I also want to flag a recent podcast about the CFAA and the Matthew Keys case: "The Law That Sticks." I have mostly avoided writing about the Keys case, in part for lack of time and in part because I'm friends with lawyers on both sides. (I went to law school with the prosecutor, Matthew Segal, and I have worked with defense counsel Tor Ekeland.) But the podcast does a relatively good job covering the case, which has been covered much less well elsewhere.

I was less impressed by how the podcast covers the CFAA outside the Keys case, and in particular its coverage of the Aaron Swartz case. For example, the podcast presents the CFAA as a statute that federal prosecutors love to use; it suggests that they use it all the time. But the number of CFAA prosecutions every year is still only around 100 cases a year. Not only do most federal prosecutors not love to use it; most have never heard of it. As I see it, the real concerns with the CFAA are not how many people DOJ prosecutes, but rather what DOJ (and state prosecutors) might do in the future, and the chilling effect on Internet users, if the courts bless the incredibly broad reading of the statute that DOJ wants. But I suppose I can't complain that some of the coverage was a bit off, as they invited me to be interviewed and I couldn't schedule it. All in all, they did a much better job than most journalists who have covered the CFAA.