Feeds

Court revives high-profile wiretap prosecution

Service provider snooping loophole ties lawyers in knots

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A US federal appeals court has overturned a decision that implied service providers could legally snoop on subscriber's email messages in a ruling that revives a high-profile online eavesdropping prosecution.

Two years ago a judge ruled it permissible for online literary clearinghouse Interloc to make copies of messages sent by subscribers of its free email service to Amazon.com. Interloc hoped to gain a commercial advantage by seeing what its users were ordering. Because these messages went through Interloc's servers a judge decided wiretap laws hadn't been violated and dismissed a prosecution against Bradford Councilman, a senior executive at the now defunct firm. The legal argument hinged on whether Interloc "intercepted" these messages. Councilman's lawyers successfully argued that no breach of the act had occurred because the emails were copied while held in storage. The first US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this decision to scratch the case in June 2004, prompting a government appeal. This week that appeal court overturned the initial ruling in a split 5-2 decision. The case is to be sent back to a district court for trial, AP reports.

The Wiretap Act refers to the need to protect the privacy of messages in transit against unwarranted snooping. By majority opinion the appeal court judges ruled that wire tapping prohibitions apply to messages in temporary storage because this stage is integral to the communications process. In a dissenting opinion, Appeals Court Judge Juan Torruella said that that the privacy of subscribers ought to be protected by privacy agreements so that remedies lie in contract rather than wiretap laws. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.