I am researching an article about data and/as crime and the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is an important part of this. This Act was passed in 1986 and fairly clearly (then) attempted to limit its application to computers used by the US government or US financial institutions or computers affecting interstate commerce or communication in the USA. At the time, this would have been a very small fraction of the world's computers but if you are reading this online, it now applies to YOU since any device (all of them are computers, really) that is connected to the Internet is assumed to be covered by the definition of scope
‘the term “computer” means an electronic, magnetic, optical, electrochemical, or other high speed data processing device performing logical, arithmetic, or storage functions, and includes any data storage facility or communications facility directly related to or operating in conjunction with such device, but such term does not include an automated typewriter or typesetter, a portable hand held calculator, or other similar device;’
in the Act. But it was clearly the intention of Congress to exclude devices in everyday use by the public and I think it would have been consistent with this wording to now restrict the Act's application to ‘high speed’ devices by which one would mean a small subset of general purpose computing devices.
To be clear: if you access someone's iPhone without there permission, you are committing a felony in the USA because that device is a ‘protected computer’ under this act. It specifically applies to anyone who ‘intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains... information from any protected computer.’ The sad case of the late Aaron Swartz who was arrested at MIT for downloading academic papers involved this (now) draconian law.