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Drug-addled scooter twock teen hit with bizarre crypto ban

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A 15-year-old Californian caught with a stolen scooter while high on drugs has been banned from using encryption - despite the lack of any computer crime element to his alleged offences. In fact, there was actually no computer involved in the commission of the crime at all.

The teenager, who can't be named for legal reasons, was slapped with an onerous order prohibiting him from using a computer except when working on a school assignment. Later, a panel of three appeal court judges took away some of the most onerous restrictions. He can now use a computer and is permitted to use social networking and instant messaging, technologies the original judge considered ought to be on the banned list for the youngster.

The blanket internet ban was "not tailored to [the young man's] conviction of receiving stolen property, his history of drug abuse, or the juvenile's court's dual goals of rehabilitation and public safety", the appeal judges concluded.

However, a restriction imposed on the 15-year-old not to use "encryption, hacking, cracking, scanning, keystroke monitoring, security testing, steganography, Trojan or virus software" was only slightly modified. Recognising that malware, sneaky thing that it is, tries to stay hidden on infected systems, this was modified to clarify that it was only "knowingly" using an infected computer that was bad. The restriction against using any kind of encryption software remains in place.

Since almost all web-enabled devices have encryption technologies built into them, this restriction amounts to preventing someone from using a computer, if it is applied to the letter of the law. This makes little sense, especially as the rascal himself has no history of computer crimes.

Perhaps the initial ruling was so ill-conceived that it was impossible to roll back everything all in one go. As it is, the teenager - who received a conviction for handling stolen goods over the scooter joyride and was sentenced to probation - is good to go on social networking sites. But this is only providing he can find a really insecure computer. To reiterate: there was no computer element to the original offence.

A copy of the appeal court ruling in the case, via TechDirt, can be found here. ®

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