Opinion: Programmers whose code is used to commit a crime face new and perilous legal threats.
A federal district court in Illinois recently dismissed the US government’s case against Jitesh Thakkar, a computer programmer who was accused of writing code that someone else used to commit a crime. But programmers at large are hardly off the legal hook. Expect more cases against them in the not-too-distant future.
Thakkar was one of seven individuals whom the U.S. Justice Department last January charged with the crime of “spoofing”—that is, in this instance, using an algorithm to trick a market. Thakkar was accused of creating an algorithm that enabled a London trader to artificially overstate demand for stock market futures. Aided by another developer’s software, this tactic sparked the 2010 “flash crash” that saw the US stock market lose $1 trillion in value in just 36 minutes.