Sunday, December 7, 2008

Are Your Kids "Hacking" Google?

If you have a child under 18, the answer almost certainly is yes from a legal standpoint.

Okay, let me back up for a minute. Longtime readers know that I am an NPR junkie. I was listening to the NPR show On the Media today. They covered the recent Lori Drew trial. Lori Drew is better known at the Myspace Mom who created a fake profile, communicated with a 13 year old girl, sent a nasty break up message leading the girl to commit suicide. Drew was recently convicted of three counts...of illegally accessing a computer...i.e. hacking. The prosecution's case rested on the fact that she violated Myspace's terms of service, therefore, she "hacked" the system.

How many people read terms of service? Google's terms of service state that you may not use the service if you are not of legal age to enter into a contract (18 in most states....see section 2.3). So if you want to play it safe, better keep your kids from using Google and we had better block it from schools since almost all students (save some seniors) are under 18.

Just for giggles, I decided to check out the JT's terms of service. Go ahead and read them to see how well they are enforced. Oh, and did you know that they claim intellectual property rights over everything posted there? They also prohibit reposting of copyrighted works (also known as the great cut and paste of articles) and you also may not "Use the Site to upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available content that is harmful to minors in any way, or that is harassing, harmful , threatening, abusive, vulgar, obscene, defamatory, libelous, hateful , or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable. "

In other words, a zealous prosecutor could have a field day going into those forums and charging people left and right with hacking! This strategy is becoming more common and could very easily be abused. I could put all kinds of ridiculous items in terms of service and then go after anyone I didn't like who violated them!

This is not a defense of Lori Drew at all...but I bet the legal theory she was convicted with could be used against virtually ANY internet user on the planet.


MinnesotaChick said...

Really.. how many people do read the TOS?
It's freaky how things like this can come back to haunt you.

kkdither said...

Wow.... every kid googles... Shucks, we as educators recommend it daily. Yikes!

Has anyone read bloggers TOS? I'm sure we are breaking a few rules here and there. Are you sure ignorance or stupidity can't be used as a defense? There seems to be a lot of that around... Can I just say "my bad!" like the kids do? Will it hold up in court?

OrbsCorbs said...

They couldn't charge Lori Drew with murder under current law, so they had to charge her with something. I have little doubt that she was found guilty because of resentment towards her for the role she played in Megan Meier's suicide. Why else would Megan's mother be called to testify in a "hacking" trial? Is mom a computer security expert?

I'd like to assure our contributors that they are safe from prosecution from the JT Irregulars. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and read our TOS disclaimer sometime: "We do not discriminate against the mentally ill!"

hale-bopp said...

Yeah, orbs. You are right on that one. There simply weren't any other charges they could bring against her, but we all know she did something terribly wrong and charges should be filed, so they came up with this.

Not reading the TOS is not a defense, kk. The defense attorney did bring that up. Unfortunately, for them, the foreman of the jury is a person who DOES read the TOS and didn't have a lot of sympathy for that defense.

Our little disclaimer at the bottom is different than Blogger's TOS. I did look at Blogger's TOS and they are not as draconian about claiming rights to your work as the JT's TOS.

OrbsCorbs said...

Perhaps the Journal Times owns my character and avatar as well? I created them on their site. Uh-oh . . .

kkdither said...

The police won't accept ignorance as a defense either... I knew I was beaten before even asking that question, guys.

I think the JT thought it owned us.... While I did read their tos, I was still surprised to see one of my (joking around) comments in a sunday edition, in print, a direct quote with my pseudo name. I believe it was a post by one of their reporters (not clearly identified). It did not indicate it was something they planned to write an article from. It was about whether or not you ever use a sick day for personal use. Made me glad that I didn't incriminate myself, as some of the other bloggers did.

Anything you do online can come back at you. I think we all can benefit from a reminder of that every once and awhile.