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Why Are We Banning Petty Cybercriminals From the Internet?

Josephine Wolff reacts to the latest internet ban against a young cybercriminal, via her Slate column.

Nearly 21 years ago, well-known hacker Kevin Mitnick was released from prison on the condition that he not access the internet or any computers or cell phones during a three-year probation period that lasted until 2003. The rules for Mitnick’s probation even prohibited from holding a job that involved any computer use or “access to computers or computer-related equipment or software.” Even in 2000, it was hard to think of a lot of jobs that would meet those criteria or even a lot of jobs that a person would be able to apply for without any access to a computer. Cutting someone off from computers didn’t just mean preventing them from becoming a programmer or white-collar office worker—it also meant they couldn’t attend school, work in retail, or apply for any jobs that used online applications. Mitnick’s grandmother told MSNBC at the time that he wasn’t permitted by his probation officer to go to school or even work at a 7-Eleven because the cash register was technically a computer.

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