Pop quiz, hotshot! (Using the same Speed reference in two posts. You would think it's the only DVD we have.)
What is the common element among Apple, an app called Pimple Popper and a guy in Michigan that read his wife's e-mail? The answer is that they have all been accused of violating computer security laws.
Of course, there's more to the story.
First, let's visit the Michigan defendant. The guy in question was in the throes of a divorce. He had suspicions regarding his wife's monogamous instincts. She kept her passwords in a notebook (dead tree variety) next to a computer that was shared by the couple. He "hacked" her account by opening the notebook, finding her password and using it to access her gmail account. Supposedly he found that she was in fact, having an affair with her second ex-husband. Our hero is hubbie number 3. Hubbie number 2 (the one now getting the action) had been convicted of beating the wife in question in front of her child (the progeny of hubbie number 1). Still with me? Our hero (hubbie number 3) was concerned about the possibility of continued abuse and took the information he found to hubbie number 1. The wife, of course, found out, contacted the prosecuting attorney and hubbie number 3 (our hero) is now charged with violating the following statute:
"A person shall not intentionally and without authorization...Access a computer, computer system or computer network to acquire...or otherwise use the service of a computer program, computer, computer system or computer network." Michigan Statute 752.795
The prosecutor's justification is that the defendant is a computer technician and he used his "skills" like a hacker to access the e-mail. Violation of this statute in Michigan is a felony with a potential jail term of five years.
What of Apple and the Pimple Poppers?
This week, a number of defendants were sued in the Northern District of California. The defendants include the makers of the iPhone apps: Testplus4, Pandora, Paper Toss, Weather Channel, Dictionary.com, Talking Tom Cat, Pimple Popper Lite and Pumpkin Maker and of course, Apple because the plaintiffs claim that Apple approves all of these apps through the inspection process of the App Store. The suit further claims that all of these apps take advantage of the UDID (Uniform Device Identifier) and pass information like location, etc. along to advertisers without the user's knowledge. Since the UDID is given to each device and can't be changed it works much better in this regard than cookies.
Along with a request for damages and other stuff, the plaintiffs claim that the defendants have violated a California statute (Penal Code 502[c]) that penalizes someone who "...knowingly accesses and without permission ... uses any data, computer, computer system or computer network in order to ... wrongfully control or obtain any money, property or data."
For those of you that are our Texas brethren, there is a Texas statute that makes it a Class B misdemeanor to: "...knowingly access a computer, computer network, or computer system without the effective consent of the owner" (Penal Code 33.02) if the amount of money involved is less than $1,500 or nothing at all. The offense gets progressively worse if bigger amounts of money are involved and goes to a first degree felony if the amount exceeds $200,000.
So, we have iPhone apps, the big Apple mothership itself and a jilted husband ostensibly seeking to protect a child that could all be possibly implicated under any of these statutes.
Too much? None of this is final yet. Stay tuned.