Tuesday, September 12, 2006

HP Chairwoman resigns in phone snoop scandal

Report from the Raw Story

Perhaps the biggest Internet fallacy is the idea that it is a new frontier where no laws apply. In practice the law treats the Internet no differently. On the rare occasions where a drafting oversight is spotted the 'Internet exception' is usually closed.

The problem is not the law itself but the enforcement and the perception of the law. Enforcement is difficult because the Internet is not confined to a narrow geography. The difficulty of enforcement combined with the unfamiliarity of the territory combine to create a false perception that existing laws do not apply to the Internet.

Pretexting of telephone carriers to obtain cell phone records is an example where the public offer of a service creates a public perception and hence a presumption that the service is legal. Since pretexting is the use of deceit to obtain confidential information it is hard to see how it could fail to meet the legal definition of fraud.

If the problem was a genuine ambiguity the answer would be to pass new laws. Since there is no actual ambiguity, merely the perception of one the introduction of new law would be counterproductive as this would reinforce the perception that the actions are currently legal.

A much better approach and one that requires no scarce legislative resources is to bring an actual prosecution in a high profile case that is certain to be widely reported.

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