What are MIT’s institutional interests in the debate over reforming the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? Questions for the MIT communityWhat are MIT’s institutional interests in the debate over reforming the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? Log in using Touchstone or Infinite Connection 8 Comments I believe that MIT has a Submitted by email@example.com on Thu, 2013-09-05 13:23 I believe that MIT has a vested interest in the debate, particularly as it relates to new technologies being developed here and how these affect the world beyond MIT. The role of MIT in this, as Submitted by firstname.lastname@example.org on Thu, 2013-09-05 15:38 The role of MIT in this, as in any other public issue, should be to educate. If fewer people harbored irrational fears of computers and computer hackers, and if more people knew the implications of the CFAA, public opinion would make reform unstoppable. When the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) threatened to cast a legal shadow over vast swaths of internet activity, including MIT OpenCourseWare and MITx, only the MIT Media Lab and the MIT Admissions Office posted information about it to the public. MIT as a whole remained silent, neglecting its educational responsibilities to the world. Until the CFAA is reformed, MIT should take precautions to avoid unintended legal consequences of its own actions. The report already notes that MIT's network terms of service can be used to assess felony charges: they should be revised to give MIT greater discretion. Ditto to tcoffee: Submitted by boneye on Fri, 2013-09-06 17:02 Ditto to tcoffee: "Until the CFAA is reformed, MIT should take precautions to avoid unintended legal consequences of its own actions. The report already notes that MIT's network terms of service can be used to assess felony charges: they should be revised to give MIT greater discretion." Not just legal consequences, but perception is at stake as well. MIT, as an academic institution, is in the unusual position of having academic freedom on its side. We should not let Washington bureaucrats, with a vested interest in blackmailing future MIT administrators, write ANY of MIT's policy. I recommend civil disobedience by MIT, refusal to allow any outside investigation of network users, until the Supreme Court forces us to ensure such outside investigation is conducted within Constitutional bounds. Putting it simply, MIT must Submitted by sternlight on Sat, 2013-09-07 00:37 Putting it simply, MIT must obey the law, while doing everything it can to resist blanket data mining and the violation of community members' Constitutional rights under the guise of national security. Though it's perfectly correct that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact", too often "National Security" is used as the excuse for legal opinions that twist the law into a pretzel, justifying dragnet strategies that capture many innocents in order to make it easy to find the guilty. That, Star Chambers, and secret courts are not the American way, and should not be acceded to except in extremis, and with case-by-case written justification. Blanket opinions of secret courts are simply an unacceptable basis for violating individual privacy. Of less concern is what current safeguards are in place. Rather, the issue is what a future unscrupulous administration might do with data collected "just in case". Some may even feel that the current administration has shown itself less than scrupulous, e.g. with recent IRS scandals, and inappropriate or selective use of Justice Department resources. Thus MIT must tread a careful and nuanced line with government, not unlike that in the Aerospace industry where two firms might be partners in some efforts, competitors in others, and contractor-subcontractor in yet others. CFAA is written so broadly Submitted by jimad on Sat, 2013-09-07 12:34 CFAA is written so broadly and so poorly, and has been used so broadly and so poorly as to cause an unreasonable chilling effect on intellectual pursuit. As such MIT as a leading learning institute ought to strongly and publicly oppose CFAA and work to get something more reasoned in place. Reasonable copyright protection to allow authors for a limited period of time to earn a reasonable profit from their publications [when that work has not already been paid for up front by human society in the form of research grants!] should not be extended to such an extent as to unreasonably prevent public learning and public access, nor for an unreasonably long time. MIT should more strongly acknowledge that the current practice of private publishing and paywalling of publicly financed research is an unethical conversion of a prepaid public good into a private profit. When intellectual property law is wrong, MIT should neither passively nor actively play along, but should work strongly and courageously to oppose the law and get it changed. Current Google Books behavior to digitize and destroy the original paper books [which came from the libraries of educational institutions like MIT] and then to for-pay DRM re-privatize these out-of-copyright and orphaned works is an example of this problem -- where the intellectual history of mankind is being stolen by corporations from us all. I do not know the act, so I Submitted by jjb9_85 on Sun, 2013-09-08 15:55 I do not know the act, so I have no opinion. MIT should lobby for good legislation, and should be clear about its internal policies. My question to Steve and Submitted by email@example.com on Wed, 2013-09-18 09:43 My question to Steve and Chris are: what does MIT do about things that it has institutional interests in? So long as MIT continues to train and support students and ventures that intersect with the law, and so long as MIT continues to create things like terms of service that directly interact with this law, MIT has a very real institutional interest in discussions about reform. Over the last few weeks, I have been listening to gradstudents, faculty, staff, and alums about the report. (I'm trying to link up people interested in responding to the report. Contact me if you're interested). People have reported puzzlement over this question because no one has any idea what kind of response MIT could make. I suspect that's partly the reason why there has been so little discussion here. Does MIT have a history of issuing public statements about laws? Nobody knows. Would MIT faculty as a whole, or some subset of MIT faculty be able to organise to draft a letter to congress? No one knows. Stand With Science has been a great example of the MIT community organising on policy. Is that what would be expected here? I am adding this comment on Submitted by firstname.lastname@example.org on Thu, 2013-10-03 20:09 I am adding this comment on behalf of an anonymous commenter within the Media Lab who did not want to be identified: "You can't empower people to act, and then punish them for doing so."