Happy 30th Birthday to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Perhaps the Worst Law in Technology

Since its passage in 1986, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act has become one of the most controversial laws about technology in the United States. Intended as an "anti-hacking" law that would provide protection against a broad range of computer access crimes, it has been derided by its opposition as “the worst law in technology.” Thirty years later, there is still little consensus about what a computer crime is, what the law actually covers, and whether everyone is breaking it on a regular basis. Courts across the country have interpreted the CFAA in a variety of different, and sometimes contradictory, ways. Meanwhile, high-profile examples of enforcement, such as the case against Aaron Swartz for downloading millions of academic articles, have prompted the passage of new state laws as well as proposed changes to the CFAA itself. 

Join Future Tense and New America’s Open Technology Institute on Thursday, Sept. 29, in Washington, D.C., to reflect on the legacy and future of the law—and what lessons it offers for those crafting tech-related legislation.

Follow the conversation online using #CFAA30 and by following @FutureTenseNow.

Future Tense is a partnership of Arizona State University, New America, and Slate.


Orin Kerr
Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law, George Washington University

Justin Peters
Author, The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet
Correspondent, Slate

Josephine Wolff
Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Rochester Institute of Technology
Faculty Associate, Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society
New America Cybersecurity Initiative Fellow


Robyn Greene
Policy Counsel and Government Affairs Lead, New America's Open Technology Institute