Looking at the title of this post, you might be thinking, “How in the world can almost every internet user be considered a criminal?” Well, if the law that the the U.S. Department of Justice wants to get passed actually does go through, every person that ever violated a website’s terms of service (such as using a fake name, e-mail, or lying about personal details like age) would be considered a felon.
The new law, or expansion of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, would allow for the government to prosecute every individual that breaks a website’s terms of service, or uses it in a way that is against the purpose of the website.
So for example, when Facebook and Google+ say that you must use your real name on their network, and you use a fake name, you’re committing a felony. Or better yet, here’s an example of a dating website such as Match.com. If you were to lie on this website about your age or weight, that would be the same thing as committing online fraud and could make you a felon; the equivalent of a murderer, rapist, or other highly dangerous criminal.
As outrageous as it sounds, this is a serious request by the Department of Justice, and it is scheduled to be delivered to congress tomorrow for review. And just as expected when it comes to such privacy issues, the ACLU, EFF, and other organizations have sent in a letter to the senate to block the proposal.
Until then, all we can do is hope that freedom of speech and the ability to keep your privacy online remains part of the internet.