Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch sided with liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan Thursday to endorse a narrow approach on how to apply a 1986 law against computer hacking.
The justices overturned the conviction of a police officer\, Nathan Van Buren, who was paid to run a license plate search in violation of the police department’s policy and, according to the federal government, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
But Barrett, writing for the majority, said the officer technically did not access information he wasn’t entitled to. Instead, he simply misused his access to information he was authorized to see. Therefore, the court said, the officer did not violate federal law.
“This provision covers those who obtain information from particular areas in the computer – such as files, folders or databases – to which their computer access does not extend,” Barrett wrote in the majority opinion. “It does not cover those who, like Van Buren, have improper motives for obtaining information that is otherwise available to them.”