OT--email privacy laws

OT--email privacy laws

Post by Mind » Fri, 07 Aug 1998 04:00:00



This was posted on another group.  I have no clue if this info is true
or not, but I found it interesting--especially after our conversations
about companies reading your computer stuff...  =)

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One of the interesting things I learned at the AUUG meeting (attended
by the entire four-person FBI computer crime investigation team from
Atlanta) is that it is a federal crime to read email.

Email is private to the recipient and it requires a subpoena from a
grand jury (or judge I believe) to look at it.  (However, he said a
system administrator's first responsibility is to protect the
computer, so it might be necessary to read an email message in the
process of protecting the system from attack).  He also said it
``helps'' if an employer posts a notice saying that email belongs to
the company, is public, etc., however the federal statute makes no
such provisions for employers and anyone (including the employer)
reading email for the purpose of discovering the content or to see
what was communicated may be liable.

The bottom line:  Don't read email that isn't yours.

(Also, since it is a federal statute, if you violate it you commit a
crime against the United States, not the individual).

(Title 18, Part I, Chapter 199, Section 2512).

Other interesting stuff FYI:

It is not a federal crime to threaten to kill or to actually kill a
person at your business (though it is most likely against state law).
However, it is a federal crime to damage or even to threaten to damage
a computer that belongs to the company.

And the investigator's favorite:

By federal law, movie rental businesses are prohibited from releasing
information on what movies a person rents and are mandated to destroy
those records as soon as possible and definitely within a year.
Obviously, someone in Washington would like their movie records kept
private.  (Title 18, Part I, Chapter 121, Section 2710).

Almost all of these statutes are only about two years old.  They were
written because almost all computer crimes that the FBI investigated
(before these new laws) were pursued under a 1924 statute written for
car theft across state lines.

Another tidbit.  The local FBI computer and infratructure office will
become a regional office in October with a staff of 11.

You can look up the statutes at http://law.house.gov/.

Ken

P.S.  Disclaimer:  Of course you shouldn't accept anything I have said
in this note.  To really find out, ask a lawyer.