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What is the CFAA and why has it been a problem? from blog The Technology blog and podcast

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What is the CFAA and why has it been a problem?

I have not really blogged much of anything coming out of Internet Cases, a blog that covers the Internet, Law, and more. A recent article I found talks about a case that the CFAA was involved in.

What is the CFAA?

The CFAA is better known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. According to Wikipedia, this law was created in 1984 and its goal was to charge people who have unauthorized access or if I understand it correctly, attempt it. According to Wikipedia, this law has gone under many different revisions, and it even touches on the Demand Progress founder and his untimely death as he was to be charged under this act for meerly downloading things from a library.

In recent news coming from Internet Cases however, we also talk about something called Click Fraud. Click fraud is where advertisers are paying money for impressions for visitors that don’t even exist, if I am understanding this whole thing correctly. According to the article title, Click fraud can be a violation of the CFAA, and that could make it interesting because there is no hacking involved by simulating a click, is there?

Click fraud is a problem in online advertising and in situations where companies and advertisers use publishers to promote their content. A federal court
in Delaware recently addressed this problem. 

Plaintiff job search engine sued one of its former “publishing partners” and its owners. Defendants sent out email messages with links to job search results.
Plaintiff paid defendants on a “pay-per-click” basis – a certain amount each time someone clicked on one of the links.

This is how pay per click normally works, under agreements that are made by the parties involved. However, Evan Brown, the author of Internet Cases goes on to discuss how the click fraud works.

Eventually plaintiff noted that “conversions” were low from defendants’ activities. That means there were a lot of clicks on links but not many actual
job applicants. Plaintiff began to suspect defendants were artificially inflating the number of clicks – that is, committing click fraud. The contract
between plaintiff and defendants prohibited this conduct.

After investigating, plaintiff learned one of its employees was allegedly working with defendants to engage in the click fraud scheme. Plaintiff sued defendants,
asserting a number of claims, including one under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 USC 1030 (“CFAA”).

This makes this very interesting, because in my opinion, clicking something isn’t necessarily a crime. It can be dangerous, but just the meer fact of doing it isn’t a crime. That is how you use a computer.

Here’s what got me interested in this article and the whole CFAA discussion.

The CFAA imposes liability when a plaintiff pleads and proves that a defendant:

• has accessed a protected computer (defined in the statute);
• did so without authorization or by exceeding such authorization as was granted;
• has done so knowingly and with intent to defraud; and
• as a result has furthered the intended fraud and obtained anything of value.

For complete details on this whole case on why the CFAA is involved, please read Click fraud might violate CFAA from Internet Cases and the excellent writing of Evan Brown.

Further Reading

What do you think, dear reader? What do you think of the law? If it needs to be changed, how do we change it? Your thoughts are welcome. Thanks Evan for putting out a great piece of work we should talk about.

Updated 19 July 14:21 PT with fixes to the formatting and shortly before that with some spelling corrections.

Informazioni sull'articolo

What is the CFAA and why has it been a problem? was released on July 19, 2020 at 1:00 pm by tech in article commentary.
Last modified: July 19, 2020.

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