Better reign in who you are handing out your passwords to.
A ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday has determined that sharing passwords counts as a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, better known as the “hacking law”.
The ruling ties into a case in which a man has been convicted for the unauthorized use of another employee’s password to access his research firm’s database after his personal access was revoked – a conviction upheld by the Ninth Court.
The use of the word ‘unauthorized’ has now got people worried, the wording being used means it could be twisted in way that could make lending out your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Go, iTunes, Spotify or HBO Go password a federal crime.
Indeed one of the judges in the case, Stephen Reinhardt, noted that the decision :threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens”. Up until this point, password sharing has only been seen as a violation of the terms of service for which the obvious penalty is simply cancellation of the account.
Whether one of the streaming giants will go after password-trading customers, that is a wait and see prospect. Netflix in particular has started cracking down hard on violaters of its terms of service abusers – most notably in quite effectively shutting down access to the U.S. version of its service overseas by those using VPNs and Smart DNS services to get around the geoblocks.