Conflicting Approaches: 2 different approaches to enforcing privacy

Enforcing information security & privacy laws and policies has become a priority for a myriad of law enforcement agencies. This reflects the growing importance that information plays in our lives. However many laws and policies are unclear. The punishment for these crimes also varies widely around the world ranging. Two cases highlight this:

1. 5 years jail time for looking at spouse’s email: In a recent case, Leon Walker faces 5 years in jail for unlawfully reading his wife’s email under Michigan statute 752.795. This law states that

A person shall not intentionally and without authorization or by exceeding valid authorization do any of the following:

Access or cause access to be made to a computer program, computer, computer system or computer network to acquire, alter, damage delete or destroy property or otherwise use the service of a computer program, computer, computer system or computer network.

2. Swiss banker fined for giving away bank secrets: In 2008, Rudolph Elmer gave the website Wikileaks secret information on a number of bank accounts held by individuals. He was recently fined around $7400 for this by a Swiss court. Since then, Mr. Elmer has gotten himself into more trouble but that’s a story for another post.

Both these instances demonstrate the varying nature of laws and punishment around privacy. As case law around this evolves we should hopefully see this more consistent laws and policies. That may take yet take several years.

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