Don’t you love it when politicians decide to become superheros of consumer Internet protection? Ramifications of poorly worded laws, be damned! No? Not your thing? Well, prepare to be irritated by the Cloud Computing Act of 2012.
Introduced last month by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, The Cloud Computing Act of 2012 is a group of proposed amendments to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that aim to “protect cloud-based businesses.” But as Eric Goldman adroitly pointed out in this Forbes.com article, the Cloud Computing Act of 2012 could actually cause many more problems than it would provide protection.
Goldman rightly, in my opinion, points out how poorly the draft proposal defines “cloud computing account” and “cloud computing service”. To put it bluntly, the definitions, as they now stand in the act, could describe nearly every interactive website on the Internet. If passed, under this new law, any website that allows users to register would technically be considered a “cloud computing service.”
The exact verbiage:
the term `cloud computing account’ means information stored on a cloud computing service that requires a password or similar information to access and is attributable to an individual, which may include allowing a customer of the cloud computing service to have multiple accounts;
The term `cloud computing service’ means a service that enables convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (including networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or interaction by the provider of the service.
So, why is that a bad thing? First, the bill muddies up the Internet law terrain, which allows for more frivolous lawsuits and ultimately hinders Internet innovation. Specifically, the Cloud Computing Act of 2012 does two major things:
1) Establishes that each breach of a “cloud computing account” counts as a separate CFAA offense;
2) Sets the pecuniary penalty floor at $500 per violation.
With the election just a few short weeks away, don’t expect to hear much about the Cloud Computing Act of 2012 until next year. And even then, I’d be surprised if it was passed as it’s drafted now. If they do try to push it through with the current verbiage, I’d venture a guess that we’ll see SOPA-style protests against the bill.
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