Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Citing "code 431.322.12 of the Internet Privacy Act" protects web site operators from prosecution.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2002]
Origins: The passage quoted above, or variants thereof, can be found on thousands of web sites (particularly those that traffic in pirated software, music, and films), placed there in the misguided belief that it actually provides web site operators protection against being prosecuted for engaging in illegal, Internet-related activities. As a legal stratagem, it's just as flawed as the widely-believed notion that prostitutes and drug dealers
As to the specifics of this dubious disclaimer, President Clinton signed no "Internet Privacy Act" in 1995, and existing federal privacy protections applicable to the world of cyberspace generally govern the collection and dissemination of personal information (such as medical records) via the Internet. Federal privacy laws don't serve to provide those who break laws in the on-line world with protection from prosecution should their illegal cyber-activities be uncovered by law enforcement officials visiting their web sites.
When it comes to acts that a significant portion of the public doesn't feel should be criminal (such as prostitution or distributing copyright-protected material via the Internet), many of those who engage in such acts cling to the belief that the use of some simple legal talisman — knowing enough to ask the right question or post a pertinent disclaimer — will immunize them from prosecutorial harm, but the law just doesn't work that way. Although we do have some well-established legal protections against the search and seizure of property and the disclosure of certain types of information (e.g., communications between priest and penitents, doctors and patients, lawyers and clients, husbands and wives) in legal proceedings, there are no special laws to prevent law enforcement officials from gathering information about illegal activities through the course of normal investigative efforts just because those efforts take place online, nor are the results of those efforts nullified if investigators conceal or fail to reveal their status as law enforcement officials.
The surest way of avoiding punishment for breaking the law
Last updated: 18 July 2007
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