A man in Detroit is facing charges for snooping in his wife’s inbox. His crime is related to a computer crimes statute generally used to address hackers and activity in connection with fraud.
Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper told the Detroit Free Press that the statute extended to personal e-mail because the inbox was password-protected and the husband downloaded the woman’s e-mails to use them in a “very contentious way.”
This “very contentious” way, is the fact that he was using said e-mails to prove that his wife was having an affair.
“I’ve been a defense attorney for 34 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” the man’s defense attorney, Leon Weiss said in response to the charges. “This is a hacking statute, the kind of statute they use if you try to break into a government system or private business for some nefarious purpose. It’s to protect against identity fraud, to keep somebody from taking somebody’s intellectual property or trade secrets. I have to ask: Don’t the prosecutors have more important things to do with their time?”
Their defense is that the wife had no reasonable expectation of privacy because she kept the password in a notebook by the computer that couple shared.
Andrew Moseman at Discovery’s Discoblog quotes Deborah McKelvy, an attorney not related to the case: “What’s the difference between that and parents who get on their kids’ Facebook accounts? You’re going to have to start prosecuting a whole bunch of parents.”
It’s a complete mess, but let’s be honest. As juicy the dinner party fodder as this case may provide, all we want to know whether we can get in trouble for snooping like that here in Los Angeles.
Apparently, you can. It’s a federal crime to gain unauthorized access to e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Can an intruder use the expectation of privacy excuse? Of course, there is always a defense. Just know one thing: by admitting you looked at someone’s e-mail, even if you’re doing it to prove they’re doing something wrong, you are exposing yourself to criminal liability.
(We find it amazing that our inboxes are protected but our panties and sheets can still be shipped off to be analyzed for other people’s DNA.)
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there’s no right or wrong in this world. There’s only legal fees.