Mike Honda’s really bad call

I’ve been a supporter of Congressman Mike Honda for a long time.* He’s a dedicated public servant that’s been a tireless advocate for the causes I care most about — especially reform of our corrupted campaign funding system. I’ve been told he’s also an advocate (though not a current cosponsor) for Aaron’s Law—the irony of which will become apparent in a moment.

According to the Mercury News, in May, Honda’s campaign discovered that his opponent’s campaign manager had access to information about Mike Honda’s supporters. Not through the FEC—which of course we all have—but through Dropbox. Turns out, the manager had worked at a firm that had represented Honda. While at the firm, he was given access to client data through Dropbox. When he left the firm, his employer forgot to disable the Dropbox access. So for years, Dropbox continually updated the campaign manager’s computer, with data that was intended to be confidential to the Honda campaign.

No doubt, the campaign manager should have disabled the access himself. No doubt, any access he may have taken to the data that he knew was not his was wrong, even sleazy. And no doubt, when Honda’s campaign discovered this, they would have been completely right to complain, and demand that any improperly accessed data be removed immediately.

But instead, what the campaign did was to wait 5 months, and within a month of the election, file a lawsuit charging his opponent with “hacking” and with—wait for it—violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Thus a purported supporter of Aaron’s Law—which would reform the CFAA, the insanely stupid statute that was the legal basis to the government’s lawsuit against Aaron Swartz—uses the CFAA to charge a political opponent with “hacking”—when all he actually did (however sleazy) was to look at files that were being updated by Dropbox on his own computer.

This is a real mistake in judgment—by both the opponent’s (now former) campaign manager, and by Mike Honda’s campaign. Honda should correct his mistake today. God knows, campaigns can bring out the worst in people. But they are also opportunities for doing right. Whatever might happen on November 8—election day, and, coincidentally, Aaron’s 30th birthday—the right thing now is for Honda to show us that he recognizes what any supporter of Aaron’s Law would see: That this lawsuit is yet another CFAA abuse, and that it should end. Now.

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*I supported Honda’s current opponent, Ro Khanna, when he ran for Congress in a different district. When he ran against Honda in 2014, I told Ro that I supported Honda.

Written by

law professor, activist.

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