If you carry out illegal on line activities and do so using a proxy to anonomize your activities, the crime could be considered “sophisticated” and thus a higher form of felony.

A key vote Wednesday on new federal sentencing guidelines would classify the use of proxies as evidence of “sophistication,” increasing sentences by about 25 percent – which could mean years or even decades longer behind bars, depending on the crime. It’s akin to judges handing down stiffer sentences when a gun is used in a robbery.

Yet digital-rights advocates are worried. Although they aren’t absolving criminals, they complain that the proposal is so broad, it could lead to unnecessarily harsh sentences for tech neophytes who didn’t know they were using proxies in the first place or who were simply engaging in a practice often encouraged as a safer way of using the Internet.

“It sends a bad message about protecting your own privacy,” said John Morris, general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology. “This is the government saying, ‘If you take normal steps to protect your privacy, we’re going to view you as a more sophisticated criminal.'”

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  1. #1 Spaulding
    April 15, 2009

    It’s akin to judges handing down stiffer sentences when a gun is used in a robbery.

    Sounds more like harsher sentencing for people who did not pin their driver’s licences to their shirt.
    I.e. people have an interest in protecting their privacy, and doing so is not indicative of criminal intent, even if it is indicative of IT awareness.

  2. #2 dreikin
    April 16, 2009

    Methinks the motive is that most of them don’t understand it, therefore they’re afraid of it.

    Well, along with using 1984 as a govt. manual again.

  3. #3 Puf_Almighty
    April 17, 2009

    IT awareness marks you as a young’un, and thus likely you are uppity and too smart for your own good. That’s worth a 25% increase in your sentence.