Thursday, January 24, 2013

Aaron Swartz and illegal data

I'd like to talk today a little more about the Aaron Swartz case.

This brilliant young man--who was a professional academic--was accused of the misuse of data.  For that he faced a 30 year prison term.

One of my main theses on this blog is the notion that it is insane to persecute people for crimes against data.

I'm not saying it is never ever a problem when people misuse data.  The famous example of child pornography is one.  That is a bad use of data, and should be prosecuted.

But the problem comes when we define data crime so broadly that anyone can be indicted, and an academic seeking to promote the free use of public information can be attacked in this way.

The prosecutor is not the only ass, here.  The law is also an ass.

Much of this is because the laws are horribly outdated.  But I'm not even at all sure I would want the current Congress to attempt to fix it, because they would likely only make the problem much worse.  They are both incompetent and corrupt.

The problem really is the system.  It has not worked for the people for a long, long time.

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