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Alternative Market Briefing

Other Voices: Supreme Court ruling could benefit hedge funds that scrape web data

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

By: Joseph Fischetti, Peter Greene, Benjamin Kozinn

On June 3, the United States Supreme Court decided Van Buren v. United States, a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) case with important implications for investment advisers and hedge funds that scrape web data as a source of research.

The facts of the case have nothing to do with the financial services industry. Rather, they involve a Georgia police officer found guilty of violating the CFAA for accepting a bribe to run a license plate number through a police database in order to determine whether the owner was an undercover police officer. The theory of his CFAA conviction was that he intentionally accessed a computer "without authorization or exceed[ing] authorized access." The officer had permission to access the database, but the Eleventh Circuit held that he violated the CFAA by exceeding the scope of his authorized access and using the database in a manner that his employer did not allow. Thus, although the officer had authority to access the license plate database, his improper use of the database's data was a criminal offense under the CFAA.

The Supreme Court reversed. In so doing, it rejected the Eleventh Circuit's aggressive reading of the CFAA, which the First, Fifth, and Seventh Circuits also had followed.

In her opinion for the 6-3 majority, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote that when the CFAA refers to "information in the computer that the accesser is not entitled so to obtain," it refers only to......................

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