Micah Scaffer has a great article over at Wired, advocating that we move beyond framing the issue (and law reform) of prosecution in the Aaron Swartz case to that of ‘good hackers’. Instead, he calls for compassion and critical thinking about the aggressive prosecutorial approach and lengthy sentences now given to all computer crimes. He rightly notes that most hackers are young, and many do not come from the privileged backgrounds of ‘white hats’ like Swartz. His most cutting line comes in his appeal to online/offline consistency:
How do we explain to a young person who hacked their school’s website that they might be imprisoned for five years? Yet if they had physically destroyed the web server with a hammer, they would have faced no more than one year.
Since the tragic death by suicide of information activist and technology pioneer Aaron Swartz, questions have been raised by commentators, legal experts and Swartz’s family as to why prosecutors would so virulently go after a suspect for what was essentially an abuse of copyright/licence offence, and why similar figures in the hacktivist community are also being aggressively targeted.
The US Congress has now demanded from the Department of Justice an answer to the question of why Swartz was so unfairly targeted. Wired has the details.
The US Supreme Court is set to measure whether taking DNA swabs and samples from criminal suspects amounts to an unlawful search in seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment (source Wired).
US District Judge William Pauley III has admitted Facebook profile information gained via a “friends” virtual access. A 4th amendment protection matter, Judge Pauley’s ruled that the defendant’s “legitimate expectation of privacy ended when he disseminated posts to his “friends” because those “friends” were free to use the information however they wanted — including sharing it with the Government.” (via Gizmodo).